Fall is here and sheep breeders are turning attention to the breeding season. Selling lambs is their main source of income and the success of those sales begins now. Below are answers you need to know to ensure the best outcome of your breeding operation.
What are the best months for breeding?
August through December are the typical months for ruminants to breed. Some particular sheep can breed all year around, but most sheep and goats breed during these months.
How old does the ewe need to be?
Most ewes begin to cycle and can be bred after 9 months old. However the recommendation is to wait a year before breeding. Some particular breeds grow faster than others and may be ready for pregnancy. But it is always going to be a greater risk to breed the ewe before they are a yearling.
How do I know when they’ve been bred?
The best way to track breeding is with a breeding harness. These have a crayon substance that leaves residue on the ewes to show when mounting has occurred.
How do I use a breeding harness?
The harness is strapped onto the chest of the ram and fastened in the back between his shoulder blades. The crayon is placed in a holder of the center of the harness. The crayon should be changed out every 15 days.
Why does the crayon color need to be changed?
Every ewe cycles 15 to 17 days. Changing the color of the marker allows you to know which cycle she was bred. If the ewe gets marked multiple times with multiple colors, she is struggling to get pregnant. If she does not get marked a second time, you can be sure she is pregnant.
What if the ewe is not getting marked?
You need to troubleshoot the problem. If it is all ewes, you should consider the ram is not doing his job or the chalk marker is not working. If it is just one ewe, you need to make sure she has proper nutrition and is fit to breed.
When will the lambs arrive?
Once you can narrow down the dates of conception through marking and recording which day she appears bred, you will need to plan 152 days before the lambs arrive. Plan ahead if you will be out of town a week or two during lambing season. It is best to avoid breeding sheep through those dates.