Tupping time may still feel like months away, but there are some important things to consider in advance:
- Ram power – have you got enough rams, and equally importantly are they fertile?
- It is important to set realistic expectations of how much ram power you need. As a general rule, 1 ram per 40 ewes is appropriate for unsynchronised ewes, and 1 ram per 25 ewes if the ewes have been synchronised. However, this is breed and system specific and some flocks may be able to use rates of 1/80-100.
- There are lots of factors that can affect tup fertility including testicle size, lameness, teeth, body condition, general disease and specific diseases of the reproductive tract. Infertile or subfertile rams can have severe effects on production for the whole year, so consider having ram’s fertility tested now to leave plenty of time to address any issues.
- Teasers – vasectomised ‘teaser’ tups are useful to encourage ewes to cycle and can be used to synchronise groups to create more compact lambing times. Teasers need to be left for at least 6 weeks after surgery before they are introduced to the ewes, so time is running out to get them done!
- Ewe body condition – you should be aiming to tup ewes at body condition score 3 – 3.5. Splitting ewes by body condition score at weaning can make it easier to manage this. Prioritise good grazing for thinner ewes, and consider supplementary feeding if you don’t have the grass. In addition, plan your grazing to save some good quality grass to flush the ewes in the three weeks prior to tupping – this will improve ovulation rates and increase your scanning percentage.
- Vaccinations – if you are vaccinating breeding sheep for enzootic abortion and/or toxoplasma, this needs to be done between 4 months and 4 weeks before the start of tupping. If you are unsure whether you need to be vaccinating or would like more advice about abortion or poor fertility in sheep, have a chat with one of the vets.