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Stackyard News Jul 06

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Safeguard Productivity with Timely Ram MOT

English sheep producers should safeguard next year’s flock productivity by conducting a simple MOT on all their breeding rams in the coming few weeks, advises the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).


beltex ram

A thorough check-over at least 8 weeks before tupping will identify over 90% of the problems that reduce ram performance. This gives sufficient time for body condition and health to be improved wherever necessary. It also enables new rams to be sourced, quarantined and acclimatised to the farm in time to replace any that prove beyond repair. All of which allows flock managers to ensure all tups go into the breeding season fully fit and fertile.

As well as ensuring the best overall flock fertility and compact lambing, good ram preparation improves profitability by increasing the average productive life of each tup, reducing the ram cost per ewe served. Indeed, extending the working life of a ram from three to four years is calculated to cut this cost by nearly 60p/ewe.

EBLEX suggests focusing on the four Ts in particular, in the ram MOT – Teeth, Toes, Testicles and Tone.  Producers should take into account overall health and condition when considering culling or possibly retaining a ram for one more season as a back up.

  • Teeth – Rams that have lost teeth or with teeth that have become long or thin may not be able to put on sufficient body condition ahead of tupping and maintain it sufficiently well during the breeding season to sustain their performance.  
  • Toes – Lameness seriously affects a ram’s working ability, and foot rot and other infections reduce fertility through raised body temperatures. Feet should be trimmed wherever necessary, foot-bathing employed to prevent or treat infections, and footrot treated with injectable antibiotics.
  • Testicles – Large, firm testicles produce 80% more semen per day than medium-sized soft ones. The testes and scrotum should be free from hard lumps, ulcers, injuries, lesions or parasites. And the penis sheath should be clear of infection with no sign of shearing damage. Infections and physical damage need to be treated. Rams with clear defects should be culled.
  • Tone – Rams need to be in good body condition (Body Condition Score 3.5 – 4.0) at the start of tupping as they can lose 15% of their bodyweight during a six week breeding season and poor condition can seriously affect both performance and fertility. They should be feed up to 1kg/day of a high quality 18-20% protein ration without added magnesium but supplemented with other trace elements and vitamins where necessary for 6-8 weeks before tupping to improve condition and semen quality.

Detailed guidance on preparing ewes as well as rams for tupping is provided in Sheep Better Returns Programme Manual 4: Target Ewe Management for Better Returns available free to English producers from EBLEX on 0870 241 8829 or

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