A stag roaring

Preparing Stags for the Mating Season

The stag has only one job when it comes to the breeding herd, and that is to sire offspring. To perform at their best, stags need to have adequate body condition score, trace element status and be free of injuries, abnormalities and disease.

Stags will put on considerable weight over the spring and early summer period if they are fed well. As the days begin to lengthen from January onwards, testosterone levels rise, and this brings about some very impressive changes. Testes growth and sperm production begins, and mineralisation of velvet antler occurs which leads to the hardening and stripping of the antler we see in late February.

Before this reaches its peak, it is a good idea to do pre-mating checks for stags.

Why prepare stags for mating?

Generally the fertility of a stag is only ever scrutinised after a catastrophic failure of breeding outcome. If single-sire mating, then the risk of having a poor reproductive outcome is considerably higher if the stag is subfertile or infertile and no ‘chaser stags’ are used.

To minimise the risk of breeding failure, consider getting the stags checked pre-mating for testicular and penile injuries. Blood tests for disease and trace element status can be undertaken at the same time. Injuries are often carried over from the previous breeding season and can include testicular damage and penile sheath tears. Picking these up pre-mating is always better than post-mating. Occasionally, young stags being used for the first time may also have poorly descended testes (known as cryptorchidism).

Diseases that are known to affect stags include:

  • Brucella Ovis, which causes poor semen production and quality.
  • Cervid herpesvirus (CvHV-1) which causes ulcerative lesions on the penis and sheath and is thought to affect semen quality.