Stephanie Patel BVetMed MRCVS Molecare Farm Vets
As we approach the tupping season, preparation is key to ensure that your flock are in good condition and ready for the mating period ahead. We would advise that preparation starts at least two months before mating occurs, with a close review of both your rams and ewes, as this should allow sufficient time to identify any issues that could negatively impact your production rates.
See below our guide on how to prepare for a successful tupping period:
All rams should be checked over and be given an MOT prior to tupping to ensure optimum performance. An easy way to make sure all elements are covered when reviewing your rams is to remember the four T’s: Teeth, Toes, Testicles and Tone.
Whilst this may not seem an obvious area for inspection, broken-mouthed rams can often have difficulties with maintaining condition, which can subsequently impact their ability to sustain performance over the breeding season. This is also relevant to those with an under/over shot jaw.
Lameness will massively affect a ram’s ability to work, and any infection will raise their body temperature which will damage sperm production. It is therefore fundamental that feet are checked for lesions and treated according to veterinary advice in advance of tupping.
It has been shown that testicle circumference relates directly to fertility in rams, and so size really does matter! Lumps, bumps and tone need to be assessed by an experienced farmer or vet.
Rams work very hard during tupping, and therefore need to be at a body condition score 3.5 – 4 at the start of the season. Your rams should be fit and not fat! Over conditioned rams become lazy and can have a reduced libido and fertility. Rams can be given additional supplementary rations in the lead-up to tupping to achieve good body condition. The additional ration will also improve semen quality and quantity if you provide a good protein feed (18% crude protein). It is however worth noting that high mineral content feeds can increase the chances of a urinary stone so choose your ration carefully to minimise this risk.
Ewes must be examined in advance of the breeding season to ensure they are all fighting fit before the rams are turned in with them.
It is important that lambs are weaned at least two months before tupping, as the ewes need this time in order to recover and regain body condition. At weaning we would advise that you examine the ewes looking carefully at their teeth, feet and udders as well as marking their body condition score.
Any ewes who have had mastitis and have a hard udder, and those with unresolved feet issues that have not responded to appropriate treatment should be culled. The rest of the ewes should be separated according to their body condition score to allow for tailored feeding management during the recovery period.
Ensuring that ewes are of optimum body condition when you move into tupping is of upmost importance. When ewes are fat they are more likely to experience complications during lambing and are at a greater risk of prolapsing. Whilst thin ewes will typically produce smaller or fewer lambs, as well as producing poor colostrum and less milk. This will adversely affect lamb growth rates and subsequent weaning weights, as well as putting them at a greater risk of conditions such as twin lamb disease.
When considering feed management and recovery, those with a low body condition score need good quality pasture/forage, and those that are overfat need poorer pastures. On average it takes approximately one month on good pasture to increase BCS by 1, with is equivalent to 13% of live weight. Lowland ewes should be a BCS of 3-3.5 by tupping, uplands 3, and hill breeds 2.5.
To ensure strong cycling and return to oestrus, keep the ewes out of sight, sound and smell of the ram for 6 weeks prior to tupping, a teaser (vasectomised) ram can also be put in with the ewes 14 days before tupping to get the ewes cycling together.
In the run up to tupping it is essential to avoid any stress to the ewe as this can affect their and the number and quality of the follicles that develop. Avoid vaccination, drenching and foot trimming in the few weeks before/after tupping as it takes 3 weeks after mating for the embryo to implant and so the avoidance of any unnecessary handling until mid-pregnancy is reached is advised.
If you would like any additional support or advice as you prepare for tupping, you can contact the Molecare team on 01392 872934 or by emailing [email protected]