A simple ram health checklist
The five ‘Ts’ – Teeth, Toes, Tossle, Torso and Testicles
The importance of good ram management is often underestimated. Look after your rams and their ram paddock to keep them healthy and in good condition all year round! However, the last 7-8 weeks prior to joining is the most important to avoid poor lambing percentages.
Seven to eight weeks prior to joining is the critical date to start looking after your rams in preparation for joining – check teeth, horns, feet, prepuce, penis, testes and condition score. Don’t push or stress the rams too much when mustering out of the ram paddock to go in with the ewes as this will cause infertility.
Is everything with your rams as it should be?
Can he eat and walk properly?
Is his prepuce and penis in good working order?
Are his testicles firm – with no lumps or bumps?
Is he in good condition/health?
Teeth and Toes
1. Check their teeth, horns (for flystrike) and hooves to make sure there are no problems. Treating the horn area with a long-acting residual fly treatment will reduce the chances of this area being struck before the start of joining. Continue regular checks for flystrike until the start of joining.
Tossle and Testes
2. Examine the prepuce and penis, and palpate the testes and both epididymis (at the base and head of the testicles and the long tubes which run up the sides of the testes). The testes should feel firm and springy with no lumps or other abnormalities. Cull any rams showing these signs as it may indicate physical damage or infection.
3. Rams must be in condition score 3 or 4 for joining – if not supplementary feeding needs to start at least 8 weeks prior to joining. Make sure it is a high quality feed (e.g. corn or lupins) and feed enough of it to improve their condition sufficiently prior to joining. Feeding supplements to rams grazing poor pastures before the start of joining can increase the size of the testes and hence sperm production.
For more information:
There is an extensive range of detailed information on ram health and ram management. However, there is no need to read all of it, why not save time and just click on the topics that you are most interested in.
There is a wide variety of notes on this Queensland site on sheep reproduction, some of the key ones focusing on ram management include:
- General ram management – rams are a capital investment, therefore they deserve special consideration and it is important to ensure they are in top working order. This fact sheet covers: fertility, brucellosis, nutrition, health, the ram paddock, joining and replacing rams.
- Ram health and wellbeing – avoid carrying out stressful procedures on rams within seven weeks of joining. This fact sheet covers: nutrition and condition score, looking after hooves and horns and shearing.
- Desire, ability and stamina of rams – this fact sheet talks about desire (or libido), mating ability, and stamina (or serving capacity) and what influences these.
- Sperm production in rams – this fact sheet talks about the process of sperm production and the importance of the epididymis and testicles. It also discusses the effect that nutrition and temperature has on sperm production and fertility.
- Ram culling and replacement policy – this fact sheet discusses culling for age and reproductive and physical abnormalities and why it is important to get your replacement rams early.
- The ram paddock – one of the most effective ways of looking after your rams is to make sure the ram paddock has as many of the following characteristics as possible: size, shade and water, fencing and location.
- Joining management – poor ram and ewe management leading up to and during joining can substantially reduce pregnancy rates. To give your breeding flock the best chance consider the following: ram paddock, nutrition, age, husbandry, heat stress, ram effect, time and length of joining and joining percentages.
- Sheep nutrition – a range of fact sheets talking about general feeding and supplementation including feeding grain, cottonseed and urea blocks.
Click here to view a Western Australian fact sheet about getting more from your rams – the basis of good ram management is careful preparation for joining. This requires an understanding of sperm production, a health examination of the ram, adjusting nutrition levels if necessary and an understanding of the ram’s effect on flock fertility.
Click here to view a New South Wales fact sheet about ram fertility testing – tests to assess the fertility or performance of rams include: physical examination, scrotal measurement, semen examination, libido testing, mating dexterity and a serving capacity test.
Click here to view a range of New South Wales fact sheets on sheep feeding and nutrition – general sheep nutrition information including supplementary feeding and a feed cost calculator.