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Ensure rams are fit to work this season

The ability of a ram to get ewes in lamb is a breeder’s reputation. As well as a sensible approach to feeding, making sure all rams are given an ‘MOT’ before sale is vital.

Pressure on lamb prices means that costs and returns associated with prime lamb production need to be carefully considered and the buying of rams is no exception. The answer however is not to pay less for rams but for buyers to source animals which are ‘fit for purpose’. Gone are the days when it is acceptable that rams are only able to serve 40 ewes per year. Buyers are now looking for rams that can successfully get up to 100 ewes in lamb per year and which will go on to last 3 or more years.

As a breeder, feeding and management will play an important role in ensuring rams can go and perform in commercial flocks. Carrying out an MOT on each individual ram prior to sale is also an important part of the package.

An ‘MOT’ is a physical examination of the ram – its head, teeth, feet and reproductive organs are all checked to ensure that there are no lumps and bumps in the wrong place. Such an examination is no guarantee of a ram’s fertility but many potential problems can be detected using this approach. For example, testicle size is directly related to semen production and targets are set for their circumference – rams falling below the targets should not be offered for sale or at the very least a warning placed against them. MOTs can be carried out on-farm and by breeders themselves. However, given the importance of ram performance on the buyers flock and the breeder’s reputation, MOTs are normally best carried out by a vet.  This also provides an impartial record of the results for each individual ram and can help should any problems be identified. AHDB Beef & Lamb have produced a video which demonstrates how to carry out an MOT and this can be found here.

Making sure rams are capable of serving the optimum number of ewes also requires planning by breeders. Rams need to be in the right physical and health condition for the tupping season. Target condition score is 3.5 to 4.5 so “fit not fat”. Some breeders are even known to put rams on a fitness programme before sale so that they are ready to go to work once sold!

Even with the most appropriate ram production systems there also needs to be an onus on the buyer to continue with appropriate feeding, management and health treatments. As a breeder you can speak to your customers about the vaccinations rams have received and the importance of good ram management on ensuring your animals meet with full potential.

To learn more about good ram management and the potential cost savings of ‘fit for purpose’ rams check out this article which was featured in the Grass and Forage Farmer Magazine. This can be found here

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