Ram being examed by a vet


Scott Hawkins

Written by Scott Hawkins

Scott is a mixed animal vet based in Vetlife Twizel.

Summer is upon us, meaning it is that time of year again for sorting through your ram flock in preparation for the breeding season ahead. Ram soundness exams are a critical and simple-to-perform step to ensure your rams are healthy and ready for mating.

Rams should be palpated by your veterinarian at a minimum of six weeks prior to mating, but ideally even further in advance than this. This allows time for any animal health interventions that may be required or to source more rams should any problems be discovered with your flock. Sperm production occurs over approximately six to eight weeks, hence any abnormalities detected six weeks prior to mating may still have detrimental effects on fertility at the start of mating.

By having your veterinarian palpate and examine your rams, we can make sure they are free from any testicular or scrotal abnormalities, or any other health issues that may affect their fertility and mating ability. Brucellosis (infection with the bacteria Brucella ovis) can cause abnormalities detectable by palpation in 30-50% of infected rams.

Why is this important?

Brucellosis is a transmissible disease that can spread both ram-to-ram and ram-to-ewe-to-ram. It can result in decreased fertility in rams and can cause perinatal lamb losses when ewes are infected, hence it can have detrimental effects both via decreased lambing performance and ram wastage should your flock become infected. The Brucella Ovis Accreditation Scheme is a voluntary scheme available in New Zealand to assist farmers to become accredited Brucella ovis free. For further information about the scheme talk to your local Vetlife veterinarian.

Now is also a good time to vasectomise some rams

Creating teasers well in advance of mating gives them time to heal following the surgery and makes sure there is no residual sperm hanging around, as it can take weeks for this to be completely flushed out. The rams you select to be made into teasers should be healthy with well-developed genitalia, and ideally they should be young but with some sexual experience. A young ram is less likely to have previously acquired transmissible diseases and is generally easier to operate on.

The potential benefits of having teaser rams ready for use early at the beginning of mating are those of achieving a more condensed tupping and then subsequent lambing. This allows you to get the greatest advantage from feed for flushing and lambing and provides a more even line of lambs with a shorter lambing beat. Teasers are especially useful for hogget mating, and as this occurs later than ewe mating, your teasers can be used for both.

Contact your local Vetlife clinic today to organise your ram soundness exams and vasectomies.