Flushing The Ewe Flock: Is It Beneficial?

Anita O’Brien, Sheep and Goat Specialist, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs
(Previously published online as an OMAFRA publication: February 11, 2010)

The practice of increasing nutrient intake and body condition prior to and during breeding is called flushing. Its purpose is to increase the rate of ovulation and, hence, lambing rate.

The response to flushing is influenced by:

  • age of the ewe (mature ewes show a greater response than yearlings)
  • breed (prolific breeds are least responsive)
  • body condition (thin ewes respond more than those in above- average condition)
  • stage of the breeding season (greatest response is seen early and late in the breeding season).

Flushing is especially beneficial for Continue reading

Nutritional Considerations for Flocks During Breeding Season

Jaelyn Quintana, South Dakota State University Extension Sheep Field Specialist
(Previously published online with South Dakota State University Extension: November 23, 2021)

Managing nutrition during breeding season is critical for improving lambing rates, but it can often be a challenge. When breeding for spring-born lambs, forages are declining in nutritional value while nutrient requirements for sheep are increasing. Fall lambing requires breeding when heat can challenge conception. Regardless of the time of year, it’s important to keep ewes and rams in mind before, during and after breeding season. Prior to and throughout breeding, many producers utilize flushing to increase ovulation rates. During the breeding season, rams are working hard to service ewes in heat while attempting to meet their own nutritional needs. Increasing the flock’s plane of nutrition continues to play an important role in ewes by reducing early embryonic death and helping rams recover after breeding.

Ewe Management
Success of breeding is largely dependent on nutrition. Simple management techniques, such as Continue reading

Small Ruminant Production: Are CIDRs Reusable?

Dr. Brady Campbell, Assistant Professor, OSU State Small Ruminant Extension Specialist
Tim Barnes, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Marion County
Dr. Alvaro Garcia-Guerra, Assistant Professor, OSU Reproductive Physiology

Whether it’s at the state fair or local livestock auction, a conversation that commonly occurs among producers revolves around the success rate of their breeding programs. In New Zealand during the late 1980s, a controlled internal drug release (CIDR) was developed and released for intravaginal release of progesterone (P4). Since then, estrous synchronization has improved on-farm production efficiencies that can assist in grouping lambing dates, breeding ewes out-of-season, or can serve as a crucial step in the implementation of artificial insemination.

Let’s Review the Basics Continue reading

Using Ram Lambs for Breeding

Ted H. Doane, Extension Sheep Specialist, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
(Previously published online the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension: August 1986)

Although this publication is a bit dated, it still provides quality content as it relates to the use of ram lambs for the upcoming breeding season. As producers begin to search for their next sire for 2022, remember not to discount some of the younger stock. As with anything else, diligent management and attention to detail will be of great benefit in the long run when it comes to the potential use of ram lambs in your operation.

This NebGuide explains how ram lambs can be most efficiently used in a breeding program and provides management suggestions for a successful program.

Are you planning to use a ram lamb this breeding season? If so, you should consider the capabilities and limitations of ram lambs.

It may be true that some well-grown, aggressive, vigorous, highly fertile ram lambs can settle 50 ewes and maybe more. However, these rams are exceptions. A good rule to follow for practical ram management is Continue reading

Preparing Rams for a Successful Breeding Season

Richard Ehrhardt, Michigan State University Extension Specialist, Small Ruminants
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat)

Although breeding season for many is several months away, its sheep sale season across the nation and producers are on the hunt for their next stud ram. Once acquired, rams should be tested and stowed away for safe keeping until its their time to shine. In general, spermatogenesis (the production of viable sperm) can take up to 12 weeks to regenerate if rams experience health complications or heat stress. Therefore, talking about the 2022 breeding season now is timely and a read that is worthwhile.

Ensuring the health and reproductive viability of rams on your farm is critical to a successful breeding program. Because one ram can service 50+ ewes during an optimal breeding season, there is a lot more risk for flock reproductive problems associated with his fertility compared to those of individual ewes. One unsuccessful season can have a huge impact at lambing time and beyond. This risk can be minimized by following some fairly simple and straightforward steps.

Ram physical examination
Producers should become familiar with performing simple breeding exams on rams several weeks prior to the breeding season. This involves Continue reading

Improving Reproduction in Sheep

With lambing season on the forefront of every shepherds mind, I think that it is timely to have some discussion revolving around the reproductive efficiency of our flocks. Nationally, the average lambing rate is slightly over 100%. For those operating small flocks, we both know that those types of numbers won’t cut it. So, what can we do as managers and producers to improve the reproductive efficiency of our flocks? Supported by the Let’s Grow Program sponsored by the American Sheep Industry, Dr. Paul Kenyon from Massey University discusses tools for producers to use to improve the lambing season. In this video, Dr. Kenyon reviews topics such as nutrition management, ewe and ram care, weight and condition score targets that should be met, and much more. I know you have time this winter while observing your flock anxiously awaiting the next set of lambs. Put your earbuds in to have a quick lesson while you keep shepherding away.

Are You Ready for Birthing Season?

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, College of Veterinary Medicine
(Previously published online with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, College of Veterinary Medicine: January 2, 2019)

You’ve worked hard to get your livestock bred and maintain a normal production cycle. It’s almost time for that amazing event: giving birth (or, in veterinary terminology, “parturition”).

It’s understandable to be a little nervous about birthing season. After all, a year’s worth of work is at risk.

The good news is that the process works as it was intended to about 90% – 95% of the time.

Remember the ’30 minute rule’: Cows should make significant progress towards delivery every 30 minutes. Sheep and goats should deliver within 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes to correct a problem if the labor is not progressing normally. Call a veterinarian sooner rather than later if the problem cannot be corrected quickly!

For the 5% – 10% of animals that Continue reading