Hogget mating is a common practice on many properties and can be a very successful revenue stream when done well. Farmers that have been doing this on a regular basis will have had plans in place since weaning and will be well on track to achieve successful tupping weights.
However, if you are on the fence about mating hoggets or considering doing it for the first time, then it needs to be given some serious thought and the pros and cons weighed up. March really is a little too late to be making plans re mating hoggets and if the weather continues to be warm and dry then the best decision may be to can hogget mating for this season.
Pros of hogget mating
- Increased potential income from increased lambs on the ground
- Improved lifetime performance of that individual
- Improved two-tooth performance
Challenges of hogget mating
- Sheep continue to grow until they are four-tooths; as a result, mated hoggets need to be continually well-fed during winter and into spring – they can longer be the group that gets pinched in late winter
- Ensuring that hoggets have a chance to get to second mating weight post weaning, in many cases this will mean weaning earlier, e.g. at 80 days
- Animal health – don’t forget to vaccinate with Toxovaxâ and Campyvax4â. Abortion storms happen and can be very expensive and soul destroying when you have done all the hard work
Feeding is the key to successful hogget mating and future lifetime performance. Even if you are not mating hoggets, ensuring that they are getting to puberty by the first of May will result in improved lifetime performance. Set some weight targets each month and make a habit of regular weighing so that you can measure where you are at and make plans to get there. Individual hoggets should be a minimum of 40kg or 65% of their mature weight at tupping. Summer crops can be very helpful in achieving this.
Hoggets tend to be shy breeders and are less likely to seek out the ram. Therefore, it is important that they are mated in smaller paddocks, with a higher ram to ewe ratio than with mixed age ewes. If using adult rams then mate at 1:80, if using ram hoggets then 1:50. Using a teaser 17 days prior to the ram going out will aid in getting hoggets to cycle prior to the ram going out and increase the chance of having a good conception rate. Hoggets should only be mated for 25 days and use of ram harnesses will allow for easy identification of those who have not been mated.
Over winter, hoggets need to grow at a minimum of 125 grams per day and they cannot afford to stand still or lose weight over this period. It is essential that they continue to grow in frame as well as the extra nutrition needed for placental development and milk production. In broad terms, a hogget should be 60kg just prior to lambing; this includes 10kg of lamb, placenta etc.
If you are mating hoggets for the first time, you will need to make some changes to your winter feed budget and winter stock numbers to ensure that these animals are well fed. As a rough rule of thumb, when mating hoggets for the first time you need to drop one ewe wintered for every eight pregnant hoggets wintered to allow for the feed demands to be met.
Hoggets need sheltered areas to lamb in and should not be disturbed. High quality forages such as plantain/clover mixes and red clover allow hoggets to perform to their maximum potential and their lambs to grow well.
If you need any help with your animal health plan, don’t hesitate to give us a call.