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Breeding Season

As breeding season approaches there are several management practices to be considered. Rams are certainly half of the flock and genetically much more than half building a future. I could always justify paying a premium for an outstanding ram, not so much for a ewe. With that consideration only top quality animals should be selected for breeding animals. Rams should be selected from the top 10 to 20% of the flock and then further selected from there based on soundness, performance and records.

There is both breeding soundness, which palpation of testicles for abnormalities and size, and structural soundness, where regardless of production data animals need to be able to freely move and be structurally sound enough to live a full life time. Sacrificing any of these valuations can be detrimental.
Semen testing is another tool that some producers use, it needs to be done during normal breeding season to obtain accurate results, some rams are not fertile out of season.
A sound yearling ram or an adult ram that is sound may be run with 60 ewes, a mature ram lamb with 25 ewes. As always, there are exceptions, our stud ram First Ever I turned with 160 ewes on pasture for one heat cycle prior to taking him to Louisville. 150 ewes lambed that cycle and I had to lamb in three places instead of one.
Once rams are selected then its important they be kept cool, shade and ventilation are important. Shearing of wool breeds well ahead of breeding season can certainly be helpful. Rams need to be parasite free and in proper body condition. Body condition should be good but not overly fat.
The most important aspect in grouping births and achieving maximum lambing percentage is through
the use of teaser rams and breeding during the peak breeding season. Ewes lambing in February will certainly group better and produce a higher percentage of lambs per ewe than those lambing in January or December.
This is an important aspect that is worth a lot of dollars that is often overlooked. Sure there may be an advantage for early lambs but there is a cost that goes with it.
Ewe condition is important as well. I think flushing is overrated. If ewes are lacking in body condition prior to breeding, feeding some grain to restore condition is helpful. If on adequate pasture or in dry lot and have good body condition flushing is of little value. Be sure selenium, iodine and Vit E levels are adequate, Vitamin E is not a problem if on pasture, in dry lot if feed is more than ninety days post-harvest E could be a problem.
Ewes also should be parasite free and the use of all wormers with the exception of Valbazen are safe choices. Valbazen shouldn’t be used at breeding time or first trimester of pregnancy.
It is extremely important to avoid all procedures working with ewes the first 30 days  of pregnancy, foot trimming,worming, vaccinations, working with dogs or any stressful activity.
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