Mating is not too far off into the future. With ewe hogget mating there are a number of pros and cons that need to be considered, and a number of best practice on farm actions that are required before embarking on it in order to get good results.
Therefore, not every sheep farming system will be suitable.
The pros include:
- Increased numbers of lambs sold
- Increased lifetime performance of ewes
- Higher flock fertility
- More efficient utilisation of feed
The cons include:
- Poorer performing two-tooth ewes if not done well
- Higher death rate in lambing hoggets
- Extra feed consumed from July to February
- Reduced wool at hogget and two-tooth shearings
Best practice on farm actions include:
- Ensuring ewe hoggets to be mated are selected early and become a priority stock class, which requires preferential feeding throughout the summer and autumn, such that they are at 40kg or over at the beginning of mating. To achieve this outcome requires a live-weight gain schedule to be planned, with targets set, which can be used to monitor progress (using regular weighing and checking). This requires scales and a suitable yard set up.
- Vaccinating against Campylobacter and Toxoplasma, ensuring proper technique and storage of the vaccines, and the correct timing of the vaccination. Campylobacter vaccines need to be given before mating to get the most value, with the gap between the sensitiser and booster injections to be between four and eight weeks. Toxovax® is a one off injection which must be given early, at least four weeks before the introduction of teasers or the start of mating.
- Ensuring hoggets have sensitiser and booster injections of a clostridial 5-in-1 vaccine with a pre-lamb booster given four weeks before the planned start of lambing.
- Using teaser rams from 17 days prior to the introduction of entire rams at the planned start of mating (PSM). This means more hoggets are in their second more fertile cycle at the PSM which equates to a higher scanning percentage. Teaser rams require vasectomising at least three weeks before introduction to the hoggets.
- Mating hoggets separately to mature ewes using a minimum ratio of 1:80 for adult rams and 1:50 for ram hoggets. Ram hoggets have smaller sperm reserves than adult rams hence the increased numbers required. Hence using adult rams is recommended.
- Mating hoggets in easier country in smaller paddocks which will increase their chance of being mated. Ewe hoggets are shy compared to adult ewes.
- Monitor parasites by way of faecal egg counts and be aware of clinical signs, especially of Barbers Pole, and drenching appropriately.
If you are considering mating your hoggets this season then make sure you do it right and remember we are always here and keen to help if needed.