To manage a successful artificial insemination (AI) reproduction programme with sheep, producers should keep the following aspects in mind:
- The nutritional status and condition of ewes is of utmost importance when planning an AI reproduction programme. Ewes should be in a condition score of 3 to 3,5 (on a scale of 5) about six weeks before the programme commences.
- Start flush feeding roughly four weeks prior to the start of the synchronisation programme.
- Ewes with udder problems (mastitis) and teat problems should be culled before commencing with a reproduction programme.
- It is practical to wean all lambs that are still with the ewes. The suckling lamb causes the ewe to secrete endorphins, which suppress ovarian activity. Once the lambs have been weaned, the reproductive ability of the ewes will improve.
- Dose and vaccinate ewes before starting the reproduction programme.
- Shear ewes with long wool six to eight weeks prior to commencement of the reproduction programme. Ewes should not be shorn during the programme or within six weeks after laparoscopic artificial insemination (LAI).
- Make sure that young ewes lambing for the first time, reach at least 75 to 80% of their adult weight when the programme commences.
- Contact the veterinarian who will handle the reproduction programme well in advance, so that ewes and rams can be properly prepared.
Dr Hendrik du Toit, veterinarian at GeneCo, says the costs are relatively low and the number of multiplets and extra lambs born, more than compensate for any costs incurred during ewe preparation and for LAI. “Most producers who make use of the process have a lamb weaning figure that is 30 to 40% higher, thanks to the extra lambs.”
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