Shaping the future of animal health

How to prepare rams for successful joining

Inadequately preparing rams for joining can cost woolgrowers and lamb producers in lost production and profits. Sperm production takes 6–8 weeks, and rams need to be in top condition when introduced to the ewes to achieve optimal conception rates.

Rams can suffer temporary infertility caused by:

  • shearing (especially after light sedation)
  • infections
  • flystrike
  • lack of shade (overheating)
  • transportation stress
  • other stressors (eg dogs, predators)

Nutrition also has a dramatic effect on ram fertility. Rams generally need a paddock twice as large as an adult wether because of their size and the additional nutritional requirements needed for high quality sperm production.

To maintain body condition scores, keep a ram paddock with

  • ample shade
  • clean, cool water nearby
  • good quality feed
  • low parasite contamination

Ensure sufficient feed—or supply supplementary feed—in dry periods when pasture quality drops.
Supplementary feeding lupins (up to 750g/hd/day) prior to joining can increase testicular size and sperm production by up to 100%. (If you are supplementary feeding ewes, ensure that rams are adjusted to the feed prior to introducing them to the flock.

Rams with adequate levels of trace minerals can still respond to trace mineral supplementation at critical times in the production cycle, such as pre-joining.

Topping up rams with a trace mineral supplement like MULTIMIN at least 3 months prior to joining this will allow ample time for the minerals to be incorporated into enzymes associated with sperm production and quality, disease resistance and hoof health.

Undertake a health assessment check prior to joining, and treat all rams for preventable pests and diseases.

Most importantly, try to keep them in a stress-free environment for 3 months prior to joining and during joining.