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Bucks check the reproductive status of does with flehmen, a lip curl that helps enhance
its ability to sense pheromones. (Image courtesy UAPB)
September 12, 2014
PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Breeding season for sheep and goats is looming, and several steps
should be taken now to ensure a successful season, said Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative
Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Breeders should be concerned about body condition and nutritional status, parasite
control, breeding soundness, flushing and preparing for winter feed needs.
Body condition and nutritional status are among the keys to successful reproduction,
Females should be in moderate body condition. Those that are too fat or too thin are
not as fertile and are less likely to produce twins. Fact sheet FSA 9610 “Body Condition
Scoring of Sheep” is available online at http://www.uaex.uada.edu/publications/PDF/FSA-9610.pdf. The same method also works for goats.
Parasite control is another important factor. A heavy infestation of barber pole worms
can weaken ewes and does and impair reproduction. Instead of deworming your entire
flock or herd, only deworm those that really need it, Fernandez said. Use the FAMACHA
score or fecal egg counts to determine which animals should be treated. FSA 9608 “Fecal
Egg Counting for Sheep and Goat Producers” (http://www.uaex.uada.edu/publications/PDF/FSA-9608.pdf) can help determine your animals’ parasite loads.
Conduct breeding soundness exams yearly on bucks and rams to see if they are still
fertile. If they are not, an entire lamb or kid crop can be lost. Finding a veterinarian
who can conduct the test for you is difficult, but if more veterinarians know producers
want that service, more will offer it, he said.
Flushing is the practice of providing extra nutrition to ewes or does for 10 -14 days
before the beginning of the breeding season. The extra nutrition helps females in
moderately poor body condition breed successfully and may help increase their twinning
rate, Fernandez said. Animals already in good condition do not benefit from flushing.
FSA 9611 “Feeding Ewes to Maximize Reproductive Success” (http://www.uaex.uada.edu/publications/PDF/FSA-9611.pdf) provides information on nutritional management of ewes and does for optimum reproduction.
Begin preparing for winter feeding. Plant cool season annuals to provide the best
possible nutrition in the early spring when ewes and does will be giving birth and
their nutritional needs will be greatest. Most of the time, cool season annuals reduce
feeding costs and provide better nutrition than hay. Test your hay to be sure it meets
or exceeds your ewes’ and does’ late pregnancy nutrition requirements. Be careful
to avoid overfeeding because fat ewes and does can suffer from pregnancy toxemia.
For answers to livestock questions, contact Fernandez at (870) 575-7214 or email email@example.com.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Program offers its programs to all eligible persons
Regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
By Carol Sanders, writer/editorUAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences(870) firstname.lastname@example.org