Photo: A Suffolk ram that was new to our flock last year. He produced some very nice lambs for us.
We kept a few rams intact from this years lamb crop. In the May Farm Diary post "On the Job Training" we noticed a Katahdin ewe raising triplets on pasture after a cold/wet spell. Impressed with her ability to raise 3 lambs on pasture and with her lambs' survival ability we left one of her ram lambs intact when we processed lambs (castrating, vaccinating and ear tagging). We will be trying him out this year to determine how well he passes on his mother's maternal instincts and his tenacity for survival.
Photo: A Hampshire ram lamb we're going to experiment with this year. He's a handsome boy and we expect some nice sized lambs from him.
Here are a few tips we'd like to pass on to help your breeding season, whether it's already started or starting later:
- Put on the marking harness a few days before the ram goes out with the ewes. This allows time for the rams to adapt to wearing the harness and allows you time to adjust it for a proper fit.
- Switch crayon colors throughout the breeding season. This allows us to narrow down if/when a ewe was bred. This comes in handy during lambing season if you need to put ewes into jugs or the barn.
- Keep track of the weather. If you're using a harness and crayons they need to be the appropriate crayon for the outside temperature. If you experience high temperature fluctuations, cool mornings and hot days, pick the crayon range for when you notice your ram actively breeding.
- An alternative to harnesses is raddle marker. Last year we brought a ewe flock in every ten days to see which ones were marked. We then documented their ear tag number and brought them into the lambing barn a few days before they were due to lamb. This worked out very well for us this year.
- Apply raddle marker with OB Gloves or latex gloves. Reapply every 2-5 days.
Marking Harnesses vs. Raddle Marker
Both are excellent management tools for streamlining your breeding and lambing seasons.
Marking harnesses allow you to switch colors throughout the season unlike raddle marker which limits you to one color per season. Marking harnesses also involve less mess. Raddle also needs multiple reapplications throughout the season. Crayon marks though not considered scourable in the U.S., wear off much quicker than raddle marks.
Raddle marker is not temperature dependent, it works just as well at 90ºF as it does at 20ºF. Raddle marker does not have to be attached to a ram like a marking harness thus there is less stress on the ram.