Although the breeding period on
many intensive sheep farming enterprises may only extend to five or
six weeks, effective management of rams necessitates all year round
attention. Routine vaccinations and anthelmintic treatments apply
equally to rams as to the ewe flock.
Control of parasitic gastroenteritis
treatment of rams as part of the whole flock parasite control
programme is very important.
control in this group of rams.
The timing of anthelmintic
treatments - should be detailed in the farmer's own individual
flock health plan. While there are good general guidelines detailed
in sustainable control of parasites in sheep (SCOPS), the PGE
control programme must be tailored to the needs of individual farms
and regularly reviewed. The introduction of a new class of
anthelmintic (monepantel, 4-AD) affords the opportunity to further
update the PGE control measures on your farm in consultation with
your veterinary surgeon.
Footcare is essential to
maintain ram soundness. Routine foot paring is not now recommended
for the treatment and control of footrot. Prompt detection and
antibiotic injection are now proven to be more effective than foot
paring and topical antibiotic spray for footrot. Regular
footbathing can have an important role in prevention of footrot
provided that the facilities are well maintained and that sheep
have a dry stand after exiting the footbath. Walking/standing sheep
in mud/slurry immediately after footbathing will have no benefit
An all too
common sight amongst a group of rams.
attention to lame sheep is essential to maintain breeding
soundness. This ram will not work with this degree of
All lame sheep
must be treated within one to three days. This ram was sound two
days after treatment.
Rams must be in good body
condition prior to the mating period (typically 3.5; scale 1 to 5)
which may necessitate a prior period of concentrate feeding.
Supplementary feeding is critical during the mating period when
many rams often lose considerable body condition (up to two units
of condition score on a five point scale). It is more important to
feed rams during the mating period than immediately after
Many rams are
over-conditioned at sale. Fashion rather than
following weight loss during the mating period, especially during
bad weather, may render rams more prone to respiratory disease and
during the mating period is rarely undertaken but has many
Debility following weight
loss during the mating period, especially during bad weather, may
render rams more prone to respiratory disease and other infections.
Daily feeding (about 0.7 kg-of concentrates) during the mating
period is rarely undertaken but has many benefits.
shown immediately after the breeding season. Body condition scoring
is important because a visual assessment can be inaccurate as the
fleece may mask considerable weight loss.
after the breeding season.
caused by an ill-fitted ram keel harness.
Ill-fitted ram keel harnesses
and blocks often cause large brisket sores which heal very slowly.
Keel paint has a number of advantages and should be used wherever
possible in preference to raddles.
Preparing rams for sale - consequences of high
As a consequence of high
concentrate feeding ahead of sale, rams are prone to several
conditions including urethral obstructions (calculi), copper
poisoning and acidosis (grain overload, barley poisoning). These
conditions can be prevented by careful nutritional management with
veterinary advice as necessary supplied in the flock health
or complete urethral obstruction)
Correct ration formulation
with appropriate mineralisation is the basis for prevention of
urolithiasis in intensively-fed sheep. Rams should be fed
proprietary concentrates to avoid mistakes in ration formulation.
Urine acidifiers, such as ammonium chloride, are commonly added to
rations. Sodium chloride may be added to rations to promote water
intake. Provision of adequate roughage promotes saliva production
and water intake. Fresh clean water must always be available and
frequent checks must be made for frozen pipes in sub-zero
temperatures during winter. Do not use ewe minerals in rations
intended for rams.
As well as being susceptible
to copper deficiency, sheep are also prone to copper accumulation
and toxicity. There is considerable breed variation with respect to
copper absorption and therefore to copper deficiency and toxicity
with Texel and Suffolk two of the more susceptible breeds. Chronic
copper toxicity results from ingestion of relatively high levels of
copper over a prolonged period; the term "relatively high levels"
is very important as dietary factors such as molybdenum and sulphur
exert considerable influence on copper availability. The copper
concentration of proprietary concentrates is strictly regulated in
the UK to levels below 15 mg/kg as fed in complete feedingstuffs.
Home mixing and mineral supplementation must be very carefully
considered when formulating intensive rations for rams in order to
avoid problems with chronic copper toxicity.
Acidosis (barley poisoning;
Acidosis results from the
sudden, unaccustomed ingestion of large quantities of
carbohydrate-rich feeds, typically grain or concentrates but may
also occasionally result from a sudden change or interruption in
feeding following sale. Mature rams must not be fed more than 1 kg
of concentrates at any one feed.
Purchased rams - Quarantine treatments
Upon arrival on the farm, the
risks posed by anthelmintic resistant nematode species, sheep scab,
and liver fluke must be fully recognised. All purchased sheep,
especially rams, must be treated sequentially with an appropriate
macrocyclic lactone preparation (3-ML) and the new anthelminitic
monepantel (4-AD) upon arrival and left in the handling pens
overnight to prevent pasture contamination with potentially
resistant nematode eggs. (Note that this anthelmintic combination
is an update on previous SCOPS quarantine treatments
recommendations). The sheep should then be turned on to
contaminated pasture to dilute the possibility that all nematodes
have not been eliminated and that resistant strains are still
three months after purchase and turnout with 80 ewes. This
debilitated state was caused by PGE. The ram had not received any
anthelmintic treatment since purchase.
Ectoparasites - Sheep
scab and lice
Careful inspection for
ectoparasites is essential as macrocyclic lactone preparations do
not kill lice and under certain situations plunge dipping may be an
appropriate treatment option.
infestation in a purchased Suffolk ram. The flock had a problem
with lice which was not treated - this ram was a victim not the
Treatment for liver fluke
infestation should be carefully considered. Rams purchased in the
autumn should be treated with triclabendazole to remove a potential
immature fluke risk.
Bottle jaw in a
Texel ram with fluke - the ewes had been treated on this farm but
not the rams.
While almost all flocks in
the UK have footrot, it would be prudent to examine the feet of all
purchased sheep and treat those with footrot with a high dose (20
mg/kg) oxytetracycline injected intramuscularly. Routine
footbathing in zinc sulphate or formalin solution can be used as a
precautionary measure but is less effective for the treatment of
footrot. Veterinary advice should be sought if there is any
evidence of contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD). Contact
with other sheep on the farm must be avoided for at least one
contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD) into your flock must be
prevented at all costs.
Pedigree ram breeders have
made concerted efforts to eradicate CLA but any swelling or
discharging abscess on the head must be considered CLA until proven
otherwise, and veterinary advice sought.
adenomatosis (SPA), ovine pulmonary adenocarcinoma (OPA),
There has been a worrying
increase in the number of rams that have shown clinical signs of
the lung tumour condition SPA. This is invariably fatal, within
12-18 months of purchase, especially Scottish blackface rams and
indicates disease in the flock of origin. The purchased ram appears
to be healthy at sale but the virus causing the tumour can spread
between sheep during housing and close confinement and cause
serious losses in the purchaser's flock. There is no serological
screening test presently available for Jaagsiekte so careful
sourcing of rams is essential. Inform the vendor of the diagnosis
of SPA and only buy from a farm known to be free of disease by
adenomatosis (SPA) causing death of a Scottish Blackface ram 18
months after purchase as a healthy
Johne's disease has become a
significant problem in many flocks, including pedigree breeders,
but the true prevalence has yet to be accurately determined.
Disease, manifest as chronic weight loss without diarrhoea, may not
become obvious for 12-24 months. Inform the vendor of the diagnosis
of Johne's disease and do not buy from that source
in a purchased Suffolk ram. Clinical signs became severe up to two
years after purchase. The purchaser's flock had no history of