Last update: April 12, 2012 07:27:50 AM E-mail Print


Care of Merino Rams

GS Maré


UNLESS rams, both stud and flock, receive the necessary attention throughout the year, efficiency cannot be expected of them at mating time, says Mr. G. S. Maré, Sheep and Wool Research Officer, Grootfontein School of Agriculture. One must recognize the great physical and nervous strain imposed upon the male during the breeding season, and for this reason he should be maintained in a vigorous, healthy condition.

Stud rams should receive daily attention and be given a grain ration throughout the season. For this purpose they must be kept in a convenient paddock close at hand, complete with stable feeding-troughs and hayracks. Continued stabling, rugging and overfeeding are not advocated, but the animals should be protected in inclement weather. It is generally accepted that pampering of rams and lack of exercise injures their procreative powers. During the off-season, the ram should be given daily, from 0:5 to 0.75 lb. of concentrates, consisting of either oats and bran or oats and mealies in the proportion of 3 to 1 by weight. Oats are invigorating, and bran acts as a mild laxative. Mealies tend to fatten. Crushing the grain is not recommended. This concentrate supply, together with suitable grazing or good quality hay, will keep the animals fit. Succulence is desirable, but mangels and sugar beet should be avoided, as they tend to form calculi or stones in the kidneys and bladder. A month prior to mating, the concentrate ration may be doubled, depending upon the condition of the rams. Throughout the breeding season, the rams must be maintained in medium flesh.



The "hand-serving" method of mating is advocated with stud rams. Not only will the ram serve a larger number of ewes for a given period, but a great saving of energy is effected. The ram is spared the trouble of finding the ewes that are in season, and prevented from repeatedly serving such ewes.

All rams should be shorn a month or six weeks before the breeding season. A heavy fleece does not facilitate copulation. It renders the animal less active and agile. Overheating takes place, and the ram soon tires. Regular dosing against internal parasites is essential, whilst a lick consisting of bone meal, salt, tobacco, and sulphur must be available at all times.



Flock rams must be given good veld grazing during the off-season, but on failure of the grazing they should also be fed as indicated above. If the rams are in poor condition, a ration consisting of 10 oats, 5 mealies, 3 bran, and 2 oilcake by weight, may be fed.

Frequent inspection of rams is essential, especially during the summer months. Through fighting they often sustain injuries which become flyblown, causing great physical pain and suffering.

During the breeding season, the rams should be separated from the ewes once a day, and fed a grain-hay ration, as advocated. Some breeders prefer to run the rams with the ewes only for twelve hours a day, preferably from late afternoon until eight in the morning. This system can, however, only be practised if the camps are small.

Where daily feeding is impracticable, a system that could be practised is to place all the rams with the ewes for a period of ten to fourteen days, after which half the number of rams is withdrawn for a week's feeding. Then they are returned to the ewes, and the other half are brought in for feeding. This system of rotation can be varied according to the number of rams being used, and to the condition of these rams while running with the ewes.



Farming in South Africa 5