BREEDING MANAGEMENT OF SHEEP - RUMINANT ANIMALS

Breeding management of sheep
          The reproductive activity of sheep is stimulated by  variations in the length. In northern hemisphere where day length varies with the season of the year oestrus takes place mostly from July  to October as opposed to the tropics where there is only little variation in the length of day and the oestrus eycle resources  through the yea. Ewes come on  hest (oestrus) at regular intervals of about 18-21 days if not bred (Oestrus eycle). The oestrus period (the only period the female can accept the male) last for about 3 days or 72 hours.

Age at puberty
          Sheep attain puberty at 5-6 months sexual organ of rams already functional at  this time. However rams should not be used before age 11/2 years while ewe lamb could be bred at 9-12 months. It is good practice to replace breeding rams with newly selected ones after each breeding season.
Easy handling
          Handling is easier animals can be caught and flock management is improved because it allows for certain management practices such as isolation of rams outside breeding season and weaning to be carried out. Other management practices such as identification docking and castration can be done easily.
Feeding of supplements is easier
          This is because animal of the same age physiological state such as yearlings gestation fattening weaning can be kept in the same group. This improves performance since each animal receives supplement meant to meet its particular production requirement.
          Provision of housing leads to overall improvement in the performance of the animals. Sheep housing can vary from a low mud-wall building with thatched roof to a prick or concrete wall with corrugated iron sheets roofing. Also corruaged iron walled building could be used. Such housing should be located on a well-drained soil. It should be well ventilated to avoid dampness. The floor can be of cement or rammed earth it should be easy to clean and should be covered with good bedding material such as straw or wood shavings which can be changed from time to time.
          The building may be divided into pens. Floor space requirements for lambs and adult sheep are about 0.4 and 1.7m2 respectively in addition floor space should be provided for  feed and water troughs. There should be more pens per building or more than one building with separate for males females and weaner.
A store and a hay could form part of the building. Alternatively the hay barn could be a separate structure. A run (enclosure) made of chain link wire waist-high may be construed in front of the pens. Divided into at least two sections for males and females if housed in different pens in a single building. Water supply can be from a well tap and bore hole or river. It should be clean and in sufficient quantity.
          Feed and water troughs should be provided in every pen, either built-in or moveable type. A rectangular feed trough measuring 4 x 0.3 x 0.15m is adequate for 10 adult sheep. Simple feed troughs could be made by cutting a drum lengthwise into two halves. If cut drums used the edges should be made blunt to avoid injuries to the animals. Large plastic basins are better as water troughs a age unlike metal drums they do not corrode.
          A foot-bath is required for the prevention and treatment of foot-rot, a very common problem with sheep on wet grounds. The most common types is the walk-through type which is a shallow long receptacle. Where a small number of sheep is involved a bucket of basin may be used.
          A dip is an essential structure in a sheep farm. The walk-in short-swim type is the most common. In this type the animal enters the vats are best made with concrete.
          A vat measuring 6 x 1.2 x 0.75m has a capacity of about 2000 litres. It is necessary to put a roof over the vat to prevent rain from diluting the chemical. In small-sized flocks a 200-liter drum opened at one end can be used. The animals are immersed, one at a time in the dipping solution contained in the drum for about 30 seconds. A knapsack sprayer can also used.
Handling sheep
          Handling in sheep management could simply be defined as a way in which the husbandman drag, push or carry the animal to where they will be fed, administered drug for research purpose for observation and study of their behavior. Good handling of small ruminant will prevent the animal from being injured and  guarantee the safety of the handler. If sheep are to be caught and handled for any reason they should be confined to a small corral or shed appropriate way to handle sheep are:
1.   Husbandman or attend and must know how to relate with the animals since animal communicate in one way or the other e.g. if a ram use its leg to scratch the ground continuously it simply means it is ready to attack anybody.
2.   Sheep may best be caught around the neck by the hind leg or by the rear flank. They  should be carried by allowing the hind leg to fold towards the front while using the other hand to hold the remaining leg. Never should they be caught by the wool.
3.   The young animal should  be carried close to the chest depending on the age weight and body conformation.
Generally what matter most is the good relationship with the animals as this will facilitate good handing.
Breeding management of sheep
          The reproductive activity of sheep is stimulated by  variations in the length. In northern hemisphere where day length varies with the season of the year oestrus takes place mostly from July  to October as opposed to the tropics where there is only little variation in the length of day and the oestrus eycle resources  through the yea. Ewes come on  hest (oestrus) at regular intervals of about 18-21 days if not bred (Oestrus eycle). The oestrus period (the only period the female can accept the male) last for about 3 days or 72 hours.
Age at puberty
          Sheep attain puberty at 5-6 months sexual organ of rams already functional at  this time. However rams should not be used before age 11/2 years while ewe lamb could be bred at 9-12 months. It is good practice to replace breeding rams with newly selected ones after each breeding season. A minimum of 6 rams should be in a flock of 100 ewes feeding of breeding rams should be improved 6 weeks before the breeding season
Estrous cycle
          The estrous cycle in the ewe is 16-17 days with estrous duration being 20-42 hours i.e. approximate 1-2 days average being 30 hours. Ovulation occurs in the ewe from about 24-30 hours after the onest of estrous after 16-17 days. There are no visible signs of heat in the sheep except the acceptance of the ram or teaser with an apron. This is the only external detection of heat in ewes. In flock mating, rams should be left in flock for 6-8 weeks to ensure (3 estrous cycles) that all ewes are bred. After that they are withdrawn. Rams should be joined with ewes 2 weeks after lambing. The ewes will still be nursing their lambs at this stage but this does not prevent them from getting pregnant. Batch lambing could be ensured by synchronization using progrestogne virginal sponges. Ewes lambing within 2-3 weeks interval would be synchronized. This consists of inserting the progrestogen in-plants into their vaginal for 12 days. Introduction of rams to  treated flock 2 days before sponge removal would enhance ovulation. Mating does not begin until sponge removal.
          Estrous normally spread over 4 days following sponge removal. Non-pregnant ewes would return to estrous 16-21 days following sponge removal. Gestation period in ewes   would return to estrous 16-21 days following sponge removal. Gestation period in ewes is about 5 months i.e. 152 days. Repeat breeder ewes those weaning poor weight lambs and old ewes above 7 years should be culled.

Signs of oestrus
-      Uneasiness
-      Frequent urination
-      Tail shaking/
-      Swollen Vulva with a little mucus discharge.
-      Sometimes the females could be seen mounting other animals themselves
-      Bellowing
Mating methods
There are two main mating methods in sheep
Natural service
          This involves the natural copulation of the ram to ewe. In Nigeria where most females and males are kept together there is no restriction to mating, where females are kept separately from males careful observation particularly in the early morning should be carried out to notice females on heat so as to breed them.
Artificial Insemination
          This has recently been given more attention but is rarely practiced in Nigeria because.
-      There are no enough semen banks
-      Fack of chemicals large semen preservation e.g. solid nitrogen.
-      Lack of enough proven males.
-      No adequate technical known-how.
Management of breeding ewes
          The management of breeding females is divided to three main phases.
Dry period (period between weaning to gestation)
          This usually last about three months. The ewe is least productive at this period. It is a time the dam recovers from the stress of the previous pregnancy and lactation. It is also a  time when the dam prepares for the nest pregnancy period; ewe should be given a higher plane of nutrition. Flushing results in a higher lambing percentage. For mating the ratio of ram to ewes is 1:20-40. Hand service (isolating females on heat and introducing them to males) can increase the number of females to 50 under intensive management.
Pregnancy (gestation) period.
          This refers to the period between successful mating to parturition) in sheep. This period is about five months. Foctal development in the first three months of pregnancy is normally slow hence to make appreciable increases in feed supply. In the last  four to six weeks prior to parturition and quality of the feed given should be increase. This is done in order to meet the nutrient requirement of the foctus as well as the dam. This enhanced feeding at period (just before parturition) is called steaming up. Steaming up ensures the following.
-      Greater development of udder tissues and high milk yielding potential for the dam.
-      Law ewe and lamb mortality
-      Higher live weight gain in the young thus heavier adult stock.
-      Water and minerals should be provided ad lib.
Signs of lambing
-      Uneasiness i.e. restlessness
-      The animals is constantly standing up. Sitting down and smelling the ground.
Udder enlargement. There is a significant change in the size of the udder close to
Estrous cycle
          The estrous cycle in the ewe is 16-17 days with estrous duration being 20-42 hours i.e. approximate 1-2 days average being 30 hours. Ovulation occurs in the ewe from about 24-30 hours after the onset  of estrous after 16-17 days. There are no visible signs of heat in the sheep except the acceptance of the ram or teaser with an apron. This is the only external detection of heat in ewes. In flock mating rams should be left in flock for 6-8  weeks to ensure (3 estrous cycles) that all ewes are bred. After that they are withdrawn. Rams should be joined with ewes 2 weeks after lambing. The ewes will still be nursing their lambs at this stage but this does not prevent them from getting pregnant. Batch lambing could be ensured by synchronization using progrestogne virginal sponges. Ewes lambing within 2-3 weeks interval would be synchronized. This consists of inserting the progrestogen in-plants into their vaginal for 12 days. Introduction of rams to  treated flock 2 days before sponge removal would enhance ovulation. Mating does not begin until sponge removal.
          Estrous normally spread over 4 days following sponge removal. Non-pregnant ewes would return to estrous 16-21 days following sponge removal. Gestation period in ewes   would return to estrous 16-21 days following sponge removal. Gestation period in ewes is about 5 months i.e. 152 days. Repeat breeder ewes those weaning poor weight lambs and old ewes above 7 years should be culled.


Signs of oestrus
-      Uneasiness
-      Frequent urination
-      Tail shaking/
-      Swollen Vulva with a little mucus discharge.
-      Sometimes the females could be seen mounting other animals themselves
-      Bellowing
Mating methods
There are two main mating methods in sheep
Natural service
          This involves the natural copulation of the ram to ewe. In Nigeria where most females and males are kept together there is no restriction to mating, where females are kept separately from males careful observation particularly in the early morning should be carried out to notice females on heat so as to breed them.
Artificial Insemination
          This has recently been given more attention but is rarely practiced in Nigeria because.
-      There are no enough semen banks
-      Fack of chemicals large semen preservation e.g. solid nitrogen.
-      Lack of enough proven males.
-      No adequate technical known-how.
Management of breeding ewes
          The management of breeding females is divided to three main phases.
Dry period (period between weaning to gestation)
          This usually last about three months. The ewe is least productive at this period. It is a time the dam recovers from the stress of the previous pregnancy and lactation. It is also a  time when the dam prepares for the nest pregnancy period; ewe should be given a higher plane of nutrition. Flushing results in a higher lambing percentage. For mating the ratio of ram to ewes is 1:20-40. Hand service (isolating females on heat and introducing them to males) can increase the number of females to 50 under intensive management.
Pregnancy (gestation) period.
          This refers to the period between successful mating to parturition) in sheep. This period is about five months. Foctal development in the first three months of pregnancy is normally slow hence to make appreciable increases in feed supply. In the last  four to six weeks prior to parturition and quality of the feed given should be increase. This is done in order to meet the nutrient requirement of the foctus as well as the dam. This enhanced feeding at period (just before parturition) is called steaming up. Steaming up ensures the following.
-      Greater development of udder tissues and high milk yielding potential for the dam.
-      Law ewe and lamb mortality
-      Higher live weight gain in the young thus heavier adult stock.
-      Water and minerals should be provided ad lib.
Signs of lambing
-      Uneasiness i.e. restlessness
-      The animals is constantly standing up. Sitting down and smelling the ground.
Udder enlargement. There is a significant change in the size of the udder close to  the female appears not to show any interest grazing and lags behind the flock.
The vulva appears slightly swollen with some mucus discharge.
When the female is in the process of parturition it should be allowed privacy assistance should only be given when there are obvious signs of difficulty at which time a veterinarian should be invited.
Lactation period
          Feeding of the lactating is aimed at increased milk production to meet the need of the offspring. Normally the feed requirement of a lactating female is greater than during pregnancy.
Management of lambs
          The dam should be allowed to suckle lamb immediately after birth. This is because at this time dam’s milk contains colostrums. Colostrums contains antibodies which help to confer initial immunity to the lamb it also stimulates the  alimentary system. Colostrums production ceases around the third or fourth day after parturition. It is important to check the teat of the female to ensure that milk is available for the lamb. If the dam’s milk supply is law the lamb may haw to the had wh                 
 Weaning blow the age of 3 month is not advisable for tropical sheep and goats. Weaning nibble at solid food such as leaves. Grasses at 2-3 weeks of age. Where a dam dies immediately after parturition artificial  colostrums should be provided. Artificial colostrums in made up of:

-      0.6  litre of cow’s milk
-      1 teaspoon cod liver oil
-       1 teaspoon cod liver oil
-      125mg of broad spectrum antibiotics
Normally a quarter (1/4) to 1litre of artificial colostrums is given per day for four days.
Management of Ram
          Management of ram is very crucial to breeding and indeed the entire production of a sheep farm. If poorly cared for ram attain puberty at a prolonged age. Normally a well managed ram in terms of adequate feeding watering and health care attain puberty at about 6 months of age  if under intensive management system. The ram could be older if under the extensive system. Rams must be fed good nixture of grasses and legumes in addition to which concentrates may be given at about 300 to 500gm per head per day. The hooves must be adequately trimmed to prevent overgrowth and foot rot. They must be regularly disinfected (every quarter) to prevent external parasites. Ram for  breeding is kept in a  separate pen or paddock usually very close to the ewe to stimulate sexual desire. At  puberty sperm production of the ram is usually of low quality hence more mature and older rams must be used for mating. There is the tendency to over-use the ram in an extensive system of production. However, the acceptable  mating ratio of ram to ewe is between 1:20 and 1:3. Excess rams on the farm not  required for mating are often castrated. Castrated sums are called weather.
Management  of buck
          The buck is the male goat.. it must attain the age of about 12 to 18 months of age  before it is used for mating. Even though it reaches puberty earlier than 12 months it is not advisable to use for mating. Buck should be penned separately to prevent indiscriminate mating. It must be fed good quality grass and legumes and given concentrate at about 300 to 50gm of concentrate on daily basis. A good buck can be used breeding for a period of  4 to 6 years effectively. The mating ratio is similar to what  obtains in sheep. Bucks that are not being used for mating are usually castrated. Castrated bucks are called bullocks and fattened for meat.
Management of a female sheep or ewe
          A female sheep is called “ewe” it comes to puberty at about the age of 6 to 12 months depending on adequate feeding and healthcare. When nutrition is poor sheep comes to puberty as late as about 20 months. Attainment of puberty has been shown to be related to the body weight of the animal and breed. Large breeds have been shown to reach puberty much later than small breeds. The moment a ewe is selected for breeding it must be separated and not allowed to run with rams to avoid indiscriminate mating. Apart from nutrition the reproductive life of sheep is also influenced by photoperiod or day-length or season particularly in the temperate region. In the tropics and where there is adequate feeding this effect do not show as there exist little variation in day length period throughout the year. Conception rate in ewe can be increased by improving the quality of feed given to the animal which subsequently encourages ovulation. This process is called flushing. It may require putting the female animal on a lush green pasture with quality concentrate a month beore mating. A female sheep comes to oestrus or heat from 6 months of age and thereafter heat re-occurs at every 15 to 17 days. Ewe must not be allowed for mating at the first oestrus. Oestrus lasts 20 to 42 hours in sheep. The heat signs are similar to what you have learnt for cattle.
Management  Of Pregnant Eve
          After mating, the ewe must be separated from the flock and kept in individual pen or monitored to ensure safety to prevent abortion. The ram must not be allowed to run with the females again if on pasture. They must be grazed on separate paddock or the  prepuce of the  penis tied to the scrotum to prevent aggressive mating from the males. Ewes must be well  fed with good grass-legume mixtures with minerals as supplements in form of block multinutrients if available.
Concentrates at about 200 to 600g per day may be given toward the latter part of pregnancy (6 to 8 weeks) to provide extra nutrients for the developing foetus.
          The gestation period of a ewe 140 to 150 days (21 to 22 weeks). On the average the gestation period in sheep is about 5 months. With this it is possible for an ewe to give birth at least once a year or thrice in two years. The act of giving birth in sheep is called “lambing”.
Lambing
          Lambing is defined act of giving birth in sheep in sheep. Ewes demonstrate essentially the same characteristics when giving birth. Towards the end of pregnancy the udder of the animal swells and becomes larger. The ewe becomes restless bleats and there is a hollow appearance on the flank region of the loin. Some watery discharge that is opaque  and yellowish is observed from the vulva and the animal choose a secluded place to give  birth. Parturition process is completed within two hours. The animal could be assisted if in distress or invite a veterinarian especially if the  foetus position is abnormal. The normal position is when the lamb or kid comes out with head rested on the fore leg coming out first from the vagina. The dam cleans up the lamb or kid by licking the mucus from the body and stimulates the lungs to respire in some cases. The young animal after some time begin to show signs of hunger and thereafter sucks the dam.
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