Sheep have a 152-day gestation period and can safely breed twice a year. May and June are prime time to encourage and promote a safe fall lambing season. A second round of lambing can increase your farm’s profit margin or make up for the ewes who may not have had a baby in the Spring.
Sometimes ewes may miss a spring lambing season. Several things contribute to lack of being bred including moving farms, drought, a new ram, weather or just plain missing the window in the fall.
Nonetheless, there is still time right now to get both a fall and spring lambing season from your ewes.
A healthy and less expensive alternative to Artificial Insemination (AI) is to use CIDRs (Controlled Intravaginal Drug Release). Deemed safe in 2009, Premier 1 Supplies explains, “CIDRs are used for synchronization of estrus resulting in out-of-season breeding and larger groups of ewes that can be bred at the same time in order to narrow lambing periods. CIDRs deliver progesterone to a ewe in response to the introduction of a ram. Progesterone is a steroid hormone naturally produced by the corpus luteum of mammalian ovaries; it diffuses through the cell membrane and the nuclear membrane, binding to the progesterone receptor in the nucleus, thus causing a change in cell physiology. In vivo, progesterone functions to maintain pregnancy and provides a potent suppression of estrus, making it important for estrus synchronization in animals.”
Several websites sell CIDRs specifically for sheep, which are easy to find and use. They are generally sold in packs of 20 for $130 to $150 with a $15 applicator. The product includes all the necessary instructions to perform the breeding practice on your farm.
CIDRs do not guarantee pregnancies and are not as effective as AI. However, they do encourage hormone stimulation, which leads to natural breeding between the ewe and ram. Studies have shown CIDRs increase the probability of pregnancies and multiples.
The convenience of synchronizing cycles for ewes is advantageous for farmers as well. Having all ewes synched up makes it easier to schedule feeding throughout the pregnancy and know when to expect and prepare for healthy deliveries.
Steps for May & June Breeding
Follow these steps to encourage healthy May and June breeding:
- Confirm the ewe is not pregnant.
- Use CIDRs as instructed by the product guides.
- Use a breeding harness on the ram and watch for signs of marking.
- Chart dates of marking and begin counting 152 days in preparation for lambing.
Keep in mind, several breeds of sheep will naturally cycle twice a year to allow breeding. If you do not want fall lambs, you should definitely separate your rams and ewes now through the fall, when you want them to breed for spring lambs only.