Pre-Breeding Management of Small Stock

Age of Maturity

Sheep normally attain full growth at age of 2 years; however this may varies from 18 months to 3 years with different breeds and localities. Ewes of age 18-24 months are generally used for mating. The rams are matured at 1 year of age but it is desirable to use rams for mating from age 2 ½ years till 7 years of age.

Goats at 1 year of age the buck should service no more than 10 does at a time (in one month). When he is 2 years old it should be able to service 25 does at a time. At the age of 3 and older it can breed up to 40 does at one time as long as his health and nutritional needs are met. The doe can reach puberty between 4 to 12 months of age depending on the breed, season of birth, level of feeding/nutrition and overall health status.

Preparation of small stock for breeding season

Female breeding stock

  • Flushing

The practice of increasing nutrient intake and body condition prior to and during breeding, normally 3 or 4 weeks before breeding.. Its purpose is to increase the rate of ovulation and hence lambing rate so that the number of twins and triplets increase. Flushing increases the lambing rate by 10 to 20 per cent.

The response to flushing is influenced by:

  • age of the ewe (mature ewes show a greater response than yearlings),
  • breed (prolific breeds are least responsive),
  • body condition (Ewes in better body condition will produce more lambs thus the flushing of leaner ewes will increase the fertility by way of increasing incident of oestrous, increase ovulation rate and decreases the early embryonic mortality by strengthening the fetal membrane integrity), stage of the breeding season (greatest response is seen early and late in the breeding season).

Flushing is especially beneficial for thin ewes that have not recovered from previous lactation stress. There appears to be no response to flushing in ewes that are already in above- average condition.

Flushing can be done by supplementing 250 g of concentrate daily or 500 g of good quality legume hay per head per day.

  • Tagging

This is a form of identification that is adopted by farmers. The tags are most put in the animals ears. This allows for easy record keeping. Information that is entered in the tag can be the phone number of the owner and a given number or code preferred by the farmer.

  • Ringing and Crutching

Ringing is the removal of the wools completely from all over the body of the ram. The ram should at least be clipped from the neck and from the belly particularly at the region of penis. Crutching is the removal of wool around the perennial region and base of the tail of an ewe. This refers to shearing the lock of wool and dirt from the dock. These processes makes it easier for the ram and ewe to have proper mating.

Male Breeding stock

  • Marking the ram

The way that a marking works is that a colored crayon is attached to the front part of the harness and is centered over the ram’s brisket or chest area. When a ram with a properly fitted harness and with a temperature correct crayon mounts a ewe the color from the crayon is transferred onto her rump. By monitoring the backsides of any given group of sheep it is easy to determine which ewes have been bred. Most ewes will deliver approximately 145 – 149 days after ram service. A note on a calendar indicating the service day records the breeding and helps to calculate when a given ewe can be expected to lamb. The colour of the dye should be changed every 16 to 18days so that the repeaters can be discovered, if the bred ewes does have not been removed from the flock.

  • Raddle

Colored pigment used to mark sheep for various reasons, such as to show ownership, or to show which lambs belong to which ewe. May be strapped to the chest of a ram to mark the backs of ewes he mates (different rams may be given different colours).

Methods of mating

There are four methods of mating. They are as follows:

  1. Flock System: It is common method adapted by commercial flock owners. This system includes mating of ram with two ewes for day and night during mating season at the rate of 35-40 ewes per ram. In no cases for any ram number of ewes per ram should not exceed more than 50.
  2. Pen System: In this system in a given number of selected ewes a selected ram is put in a pen for service during night and withdrawn in the morning. This practice is repeated daily when the animals return after grazing. Rams are either grazed separately and are stall-fed. Pen mating is the most favored practice at sheep farms.
  3. Hand Service: In this method ewes in oestrous are separated by using teaser ram and mated with proven sire in breeding pens. The system is extremely useful for any experimental farmers but has got values in commercial farms.
  4. Artificial Insemination (AI): 0.2 ml of freshly collected semen having 120-150 million minimum active spermatozoa is deposited at the head of cervix by using specially designed catheter with spirally shaped. AI in sheep cannot be adapted as easily as that of cattle because dilution factor of ram semen is low and its preservability is very poor.