Carol Sanders | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
September is the time to prepare for sheep or goat breeding season, said Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Several steps can help insure the most successful breeding season ever.
Conduct a breeding soundness exam on bucks and rans to see if they are still fertile. Most small flocks and herds use only one or two males. If one or both are not fertile, the entire breeding season may be lost, said Dr. Fernandez. Exams should be conducted yearly, but finding a veterinarian to conduct the test may be difficult. If more veterinarians know producers want the service, more will offer it, he said.
Review production records. Cull females that require more dewormings, or those with bad feet and legs, poor udders, or that failed to raise healthy offspring. Also, eliminate females that are less likely to become pregnant and raise healthy twins. Replace them with younger females from dams that produced more and healthier offspring. This will cut expenses and raise profits next year and in the future, said Dr. Fernandez.
Learn to body condition score your sheep and goats. Body condition and nutritional status are keys to successful reproduction. Feel along the backbone between the last rib and the hip bones to see if there is a moderate amount of cover over the bones. Too much fat cover can reduce breeding success and increase lambing and kidding problems in the spring. Learn to score at http://www.uaex.edu/Other_Areas/publications/PDF/FSA-9610.pdf.
Provide extra nutrition to ewes or does for 10-14 days before the beginning of the breeding season (flushing). The additional nutrition can help females in moderately poor body condition breed successfully and may help increase their twinning rate.
“Animals already in good body condition do not benefit from flushing,” said Dr. Fernandez. “Flushing good to fleshy females may even reduce their reproductive performance.”
Do not continue flushing beyond the second week of the breeding season because extra nutrition can be detrimental to the development of the embryos in the womb during early pregnancy. Learn more about flushing and nutritional management of ewes and does for optimum reproduction at http://www.uaex.edu/Other_Areas/publications/PDF/FSA-9611.pdf.
Start preparing for winter feed needs. Early to mid-September is time to plant cool season annuals in Arkansas. Cool season annuals can reduce feeding costs and provide better nutrition than hay most of the time. Have hay tested to be sure it meets or exceeds your ewes’ and does’ late pregnancy nutrition requirements. Avoid overfeeding because fat ewes and does can suffer from pregnancy toxemia.
For more information on this or other livestock related topics, contact Dr. Fernandez at (870) 575-7214.
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