A FLOCK IS ONLY AS GOOD AS ITS RAMS
The number of lambs a ram sires in his lifetime determines the return on his purchase price, with financial figures showing that producers could reduce costs by around £2 per lamb produced and more if he works just an extra season and serves an adventurous but realistic 100 ewes each time, explains Laura Drury, Rumenco Technical Adviser.
“Information on ram performance in the UK has, up until now, been very much anecdotal, but a recently completed project has revealed the true extent of the poor performance and health of these key animals within our flocks” outlines Ms Drury.
“Of the many farms surveyed in the project, rams were on average lasting around one year less than desired, with some of the top reasons for culling reported to be poor body condition, infertility and lameness, all of which can be addressed by making very simple nutritional changes to how they are reared” she continues. “Whilst the opposite may be true for the female counterparts of our flocks, 80% of farmers also admitted they did not know enough about ram nutrition which opens up plenty of opportunities to make improvements in this area.”
For many years over-feeding has also raised concerns. Whilst probably proving beneficial for sellers wanting to produce big rams appealing to the eye at market, this can be bad news for buyers who are consequently introducing unfit and inefficient tups into their flock showing poor fertility and a predicted short working lifetime.
“High levels of concentrate feeding have been shown to significantly impact on ram fertility, resulting in significant reductions in semen motility, concentration and the percentage of normal sperm as a consequence of increasing lying time essentially ‘cooking’ the testicles” notes Ms Drury. “Extensively reared tups on forage-based diets will no doubt be fitter and more fertile giving a longer working lifetime, with reduced reliance on bought in concentrates, all of which will influence financial returns”.
“Ensuring rams are fit and healthy for hard work can therefore be considered to be one of the most crucial components of a flock management plan, particularly during the run up to and during tupping time” Ms Drury explains.
As part of the Easicare ™ system developed by the SAC, Rumenco’s LIFELINE Ram Care is specifically formulated to address the key problems facing today’s commercial rams by supporting the production of hard-working males with a long productive lifetime without relying on large amounts of concentrates.
The premium feed and mineral molassed lick is packed with quality natural protein (15% crude protein) and good levels of energy (12MJ ME/kg DM). Specifically selected minerals and vitamins, including selenised yeast, vitamin B12 and biotin, plus fish oil and Diamond V XPLS have also been included, all of which help make key ram performance targets and subsequent improved profitability very much achievable.
“Successfully rearing or buying rams to endure the rigours of a commercial working life still appears to be an area that many sheep producers can make better decisions on” suggests Ms Drury. “Given the importance of these few but fundamental animals in our flocks, employing a simple but effective feeding regime could prove a win-win situation for many years ahead.”