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

Small Ruminant Management: Abortion Causing Diseases

Dr. Brady Campbell, Assistant Professor, State Small Ruminant Extension Specialist

For those raising sheep and goats in the Midwest, lambing and kidding season is in full swing. As we enjoy the victories and contemplate the challenges our management systems threw at us this year, it is important to note and document everything that happened so we can evaluate our outcomes at the end of the season. An important statistic to keep in any livestock operation is death loss. This number is valuable to quantify the efficiency of your operation, but without recording a reason for a loss or death in your operation, this statistic ends here. I know that it can be stressful and deflating when we encounter a loss, but understanding why it occurred and the reason behind it will pay dividends as you move forward. Although this discussion is a bit gloomy to talk about, it’s an important one none the less. Below, I have outlined some of the common diseases in sheep and goats that are associated with pregnancy loss, abortions, stillbirths, and birth deformities. Be sure to read each of these and compare them to your operation. Even if you don’t have issues today, these diseases can rear their ugly head at any given time. Keeping this information tucked away in your farming tool box will be well worth the read.

Campylobacter (Vibrio)
Campylobacter, or more commonly referred to as Vibrio, is caused by a bacterial infection with campylobacter jejuni or fetus. Ewes and does that contract this bacterial infection tend to abort during Continue reading

Winter Management Timeline and Strategies for Sheep and Goats

Presented by the University of Idaho and Utah State University, this 2-hour webinar covers management strategies for sheep and goats both pre- and post parturition. Understanding that 2-hours can be a chunk of time to view all this information, the presenters have provided excellent slide titles that allow for producers to seek out the information that they are specifically in need of. Whether you raise, sheep, goats, or both, this complete and comprehensive presentation is well worth the investment of time. Enjoy!

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

Lambing and Kidding Emergencies

Haley Zynda, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County

Dystocia, weak lambs and kids, hypothermia (if you have the pleasure of lambing in January and February like we do in the Midwest), and agalactia all classify as lambing and kidding emergencies in my book and probably yours, too. With lambing season perhaps already started for some and right around the corner for others, it’s time to prepare for the “lamb-pede” soon to hit your barns.

Dystocia is the issue producers are most likely concerned about. If unattended, dystocia can result in dead lambs, and in the worst cases, dead ewes. Dystocia can present in a variety of ways, especially if the mother is carrying twins like we so hope she does! My counterpart in Delaware County, Jacci Smith, has a great video of demonstrations on how to handle different dystocia presentations, and can be found on YouTube titled “Lambing and Kidding Simulators” on the OSU Extension Delaware County page. Jacci created Continue reading

Prolapses in Sheep

Isabel Richards, Veterinary Science – South Africa and owner/operator of Gibraltar Farm
(Previously published with the Eastern Alliance for Production Katahdins (EAPK): December 12, 2021)

There are three structures that can prolapse and be visible under a ewe’s tail: vagina, uterus, and rectum. Vaginal and uterine prolapses can negatively affect ewes around lambing and will be discussed here.

Vaginal Prolapse
A vaginal prolapse occurs when a ewe’s vagina protrudes out of her vulva. Most prolapses occur in the last few days or weeks of pregnancy. It usually starts with the ewe laying down and you just see a small little ball of red tissue protruding from the vulva that retracts when she stands up. This is the ideal time to start treatment and prevent it from progressing to a much more serious situation.

If left untreated, more of the vagina will start protruding. This tissue is not supposed to be exposed to the elements and with time it becomes dried out, contaminated with bedding and fecal matter and infection can set in. This is uncomfortable for the ewe and she will start straining, pushing more and more tissue out and making the situation worse. Often Continue reading