Managing ram paddocks for successful breeding
Keeping your rams content is a year-round process and not just important in the lead-up to joining. One way to keep the animals' stress levels low and increase their productivity is to maintain a high quality ram paddock at all times.
Ram paddock size
Because of their greater size and additional nutritional requirements for the maintenance of fertility, rams generally need to be allowed twice as much country as a fully grown wether.
In drier periods when a good amount of quality pasture isn't available, supplementary feed is required to maintain a good condition score. Lupins can be fed to rams to improve nutrition and sperm production.
You should allow rams plenty of country during the drier times of the year, and also ensure there is enough feed, or their condition is likely to drop.
Shade and water in ram paddocks
You must ensure good quality shade in your ram paddock. Without shade, rams can become overly hot and sperm production and performance can suffer.
The odd bush or tree here and there is not good enough. Where shade is scarce, consider planting shade plots of leafy, quick growing trees or providing some form of artificial shade.
An ample supply of good quality water is also important. Water must be clean, cool and as close to shade as possible.
Fencing ram paddocks
Your fencing must be sufficient to keep rams in all year around. The disruption and damage that losing a ram can cause to a breeding program can range from a nuisance to very serious. In the case of a spring/summer joining it can result in very low conception rates in ewes that have had earlier contact with rams, but failed to get in lamb.
You can add electrified standoff wires as a relatively inexpensive option to make an otherwise insecure ram paddock stock proof. You should also keep an eye out for any stray rams from neighbouring paddocks getting in with your ewes.
Ram paddock location
Try not to run ewes in paddocks that adjoin the ram paddock, as close contact of this kind may reduce the influence of the ram effect at joining. When running ewes in these paddocks is unavoidable, you should move the ewes to other paddocks that are at least 1km from the ram paddock no later than 1 month before joining. Wherever possible, you should separate ewes and rams by at least 1 paddock at all times.
Placing ram paddocks close to the house allows for better supervision and easier management. The shorter distance to the yards also means less stress on rams when they need to be handled.
Ram paddock yards
Where the ram paddock is some distance from a set of yards, you should construct a small set of yards in the paddock for routine management procedures (palpation, drenching, jetting, etc). A couple of small yards, a draft, a covered race and a loading facility are all is needed.
You may encounter problems if the ram paddock actually adjoins the yards - particularly if rams water or camp at that end of the paddock. In this situation, ewes can come into close contact with rams whenever they are put through the yards (shearing, crutching, etc.) and the influence of the ram effect at joining may be reduced.
- Learn how to manage your paddock to protect your farm's natural assets on the Making More From Sheep website.
- Learn how to improve sheep flocks through genetics.
- Find out how to manage ewes for successful sheep breeding.
- Learn how to join rams and ewes for successful sheep breeding.
- Find out about sheep health and disease prevention.