Ram buying guide: Vital quarantine procedures

Quarantining new tups is vital to avoid increasing worm resistance or stop potentially devastating diseases from entering the flock.

That is according to Amy Avery of the Livestock Partnership Vets, who says despite this advice, many farmers still put their new purchases straight in with the ewes.

See also: Buying a ram part one – choose the man not the ram

Step-by-step quarantine protocols for when you get your purchase home

  1. House or yard the ram away from ewes for 48 hours
  2. Worm immediately with Ivermectin and either a class 4 or 5 drench – if the ram has come from a fluke area, treat also with triclabendazole.
  3. Wait a minimum of 24 hours, but 48 hours is strongly advised – this gives an opportunity to observe the ram for the presence of any skin conditions or foot rot and treat as necessary
  4. At turnout vaccinate for clostridial diseases to build immunity against diseases that can cause sudden death
  5. Get the ram onto the flock health plan for the remaining vaccinations

“There is already a huge amount of worm resistance, the last thing you want to do is add another strain and if you don’t have a disease, the last thing you want to do is bring it in,” she says.

She gives her advice on the 48-hour quarantine process and how to minimise the risk of buying a ram not fit for purpose.

Pre-sale preparations

If you are expecting to purchase a ram, ensure you have suitable quarantine accommodation ready for your return, says Mrs Avery.

“This should ideally be an area indoors or with a concrete floor. If this is not possible then an area of grazing not used by the rest of the flock should be used,” she adds.

See also: Ram buying guide part two – selecting a ram using EBVs

The MoT

Where possible, an MoT examination should be carried out before the point of sale to avoid undue stress.

Ideally, this should be done by a vet on the previous property or as the ram arrives on farm, but some farmers may only want to bring clean and tested rams onto their holding so in this instance the MoT should be conducted beforehand.

“A semen test is only usually recommended if the ram will be a single sire or responsible for tupping a lot of ewes in a short space of time. Unlike bulls it is not always in the best interests to test rams too early, as they may not give a good sample due to the seasonal nature of breeding,” she says.

For early purchasers buying rams at least two months ahead of tupping, the ideal scenario is to carry out the MoT before the sale and get the semen test done on the purchaser’s farm, says Mrs Avery.

“This also allows time for the ram to become familiar and relaxed with its surroundings, get used to any other rams and adapt to any changes in diet, along with plenty of time to pick up any problems,” she adds.

AHDB recommends that the MoT should be done 10 weeks prior to mating.

Blood tests can also be carried out to screen for particular disease antibodies if the farm is concerned about a specific disease.However, this is not routine.

infographic explaining key ram buying facts

Minimising disease risks at the sale

Aside from the MoT, steps can be taken by the farmer at the point of sale to minimise the risk of buying an unhealthy ram.

The biggest problem is often over-fat rams, which can lead to other problems such as lameness, she says. The aim should be for a ram to have good locomotion and a body condition score of between 3.5 and 4.0. Above all, Mrs Avery says farmers must not lose sight of the fundamental fact that the ram needs to work.

“It is easy to become too focused on the breed traits and characteristics you’re after, but think to yourself, is it tall enough, big enough, sound enough? Can it work hard for two and a half months?” she says.

Mrs Avery advises to look out for skin diseases, such as scab, which causes damp skin around the shoulders, and Caseous Lymphadenitis (CLA) which causes lumps and bumps around the neck and jawline.

While at the sale farmers should also check their prospective purchase is in reasonable condition, with bright eyes, good teeth (no gaps, molar abscesses or over-shot teeth) and of course, two testicles, with no lumps on the scrotum.

Questions to ask the breeder

  • Depending on the ram’s age, farmers should be finding out its working history, including any previous MoT tests.
  • It is also worth finding out the vaccination and worming history, along with whether it has come from an area with fluke.
  • Checking the diet of the ram will give an indication of whether it has been fed up for the show and if it will work on your system.