Feeling horny? Maybe it's these long dark nights?

November 10, 2017

 

There’s something in the air up at Easter Bavelaw. As the day length shortens, this triggers a ewe to come into season. It is believed to be triggered by the hormone melatonin which has higher levels at night.

Sheep native to temperate climates breed once a year. Spring is the best time to rear young, as there is plenty of grass around to fuel a lactating ewe feeding her lambs. The gestation period for sheep is 147 days, (nearly five months) so the natural breeding season is in late autumn.

The process of mating a ram with a ewe is called tupping. There’s alot to do ahead of tupping. First you need a tup (ram) or two. A mature tup can cover around 50 ewes. He needs to be in good condition, with good feet, fit but not too fat. You can fertility test a ram but it’s is expensive so we have second “sweeper” tup to finish the job if the the first one hasn’t. Athough we only have a few tups, their offspring make up 50% of flocks genetics, so important to make sure the tup has all the attributes to want in your flock looking ahead.

The ewes need to be in good condition too, so we’ve been sorting through them, moving any skinny ones to better grazing. Two weeks before tupping, we will move all of them to better grass. This is called “flushing” and helps ovulation. It’s a good time to dip them too. Dipping prevents infestation from parasites such as mites, ticks and lice.

Once to tups are in, we try not to disturb them. The early stage pregnancy is a risky time and any stresses may cause them to abort. That’s why dog walkers are especially advised to keep dogs on a lead at tupping time.

And about those horny sheep....
Contrary to what many think, not all rams have horns. It depends on the breed. In some breeds, both the male and female have horns. In some breeds only the male has horns. Neither the ram nor the ewe have horns in our Easycare sheep.

When all that’s done, we have to leave them alone and let nature work it’s magic. 

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