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Checking rams pre-joining

Belinda Edmonstone, District Veterinarian Forbes

For those who join in spring, now is the time to get in and check your rams. Allow time to assess how many replacements are needed and if any supplementary feed is required to get them in good working condition.

This is also a good time to give them their annual vaccination and a drench.

What to look for:

1. Are they in good body condition? If not, why not? It may be related to poor nutrition, internal parasites, chronic disease or age. Once the reason is established the producer can treat or cull.

2. Check their teeth. They need to have a sound mouth

3. Ensure they are mobile. Lameness will reduce the ability of the ram to get around and serve ewes.

4. Palpate their testicles. There should be no lumps and bumps on the testicles and they should be firm and uniform in size. Producers should consider having any rams with lesions examined by a vet to ensure Ovine Brucellosis is not the cause. This is particularly important if there are a number of rams affected. Ovine Brucellosis is a contagious disease affecting ram fertility.

5. Check the pizzle. Examine the prepuce for swelling or an abnormal discharge coming from the penis. The penis can also be extruded and checked for scabs, ulcers or deviations.

Check your rams before joining 

When purchasing rams, in addition to assessing the usual traits that help you select a ram it is highly recommended that the rams be from an Ovine Brucellosis accredited flock. Also buyers should request a sheep health statement from the seller which includes useful information on the origin of the ram, prior treatment, OJD status, footrot and lice.

When your new rams arrive it is recommended that a quarantine drench with at least a four way combination drench is given. The rams should be quarantined for as long as possible to ensure they are lice free or until they can be shorn and treated for lice before introducing them to your flock.

If any landholder would like help with their pre-breeding assessment, please contact your Local Land Services District Veterinarian.