Rams need a condition check prior to tupping
By James Garner
TUP condition is of major importance for sheep producers as they begin getting ready for this years tupping.
And preparation is vital if flockmasters are going to give their rams the best chance of performing, says the MLCs sheep scientist Jenny Anderson.
Tups in particular need to be checked six to eight weeks before tupping to ensure they will be fit for the job, says Dr Anderson.
"They wont eat while they are working, so it is essential they are in good condition beforehand."
She recommends producers check the three Ts – teeth, toes and testicles.
"They need to have a full mouth of teeth so they can eat well before tupping. Check their feet for foot-rot and footbath them with zinc sulphate." But be careful if treating any infections with antibiotics, she adds, because some antibiotics can affect fertility.
"Check this out with your vet before using any antibiotics on the farm. Terramycin injections affect ram fertility, but terramycin spray is OK."
Testicles are the third T to check. Dr Anderson recommends that rams have firm and even-sized testes that have no lumps. Its also important to check a rams penis and prepuce for any infections or cuts from shearing.
Where tups have been left in a paddock all winter with little feed, supplementary feeding before tupping may be required.
This may mean concentrate feeding, but if opting to feed concentrates then check copper levels. "Dont feed cattle compounds because they will be too high in copper," says Dr Anderson.
Its also worth checking a rams fertility and mineral levels, she says. "Your vet can carry out a fertility test and blood test for mineral deficiencies." Any tups deficient in selenium, for example, may have less motile sperm which could affect fertility.
Any flocks wanting to compress their lambing period naturally using teasers should introduce these 11-12 days before rams go in so ewes are more likely to be ovulating at the time tups are introduced.
Tups may be half the flock at mating, but ewe condition could determine how many lambs are born next year. First, decide whether you want a lot of lambs or not, says Dr Anderson. "Flocks that do should flush ewes on good pasture during tupping, those that dont should use less good pasture."
Lowland-type ewes need to be in condition score three at tupping, while upland ewes will want to be half a condition score less, she adds.
"Ewes in better condition score than this will need to be thinned down, while those in better nick will need to be fattened. It takes two weeks of good feed to improve a ewes condition score by 0.5."
Shepherds may also want to be mindful of the moon, suggests Dr Anderson. "When tupping dates have coincided with the full moon tups have been pretty inactive during the first few weeks. The full moon may be why." *