Pre-joining ram checks

Two farmers inspecting a ram on its back

Do you check your rams before putting them out with the ewes? How do you know if they are fit and fertile to do the job?

Breeding soundness checks of your rams are not difficult, and you can do the checks yourself. This check should be performed 8 weeks before joining to ensure time for recovery of rams or for you to purchase new rams, if needed. The simple '5T' checklist makes this procedure easy:

  • Testicles and scrotum. Palpation of the testicles is a good assessment tool for some diseases and the fertility of the ram. A ram's testes should be, at the smallest, the size of a stubby (about 300g or more), with both of equal size, firm and resilient to touch, and free moving within the scrotum. There should be no lumps or bumps on the testicle or epididymis.
  • Torso. Rams should be body condition scored, and ideally should be in BCS 3. If overweight, they are likely to tire quickly when paddock mated  —  if too skinny, they may have suboptimal fertility.
  • Teeth. Rams must have a sound mouth. Broken-mouthed rams should be culled because they will be less able to eat sufficient feed to maintain weight. Your ram flock should ideally have a range of ages. Small numbers of replacements should be purchased every year to maintain a sound breeding group of rams.
  • Toes and legs. Having sound rams is essential for optimal mating performance. The toes and legs are what get the ram around and support him during mating. The rams must be sound without any signs of lameness.
  • Tossle. The penis (tossle) can be exteriorised easily on a ram that is tipped up on his rear and rolled slight forward. However, tipping large numbers of rams is not an easy task, so palpation of the penis through the prepuce is an alternative, although it will not provide you with the same amount of information. Damage such as shearing cuts, or pizzle rot and other infections to the penis or prepuce could cause problems during mating. Rams with such problems should be culled.

Taking the time to conduct this simple examination of your rams 8 weeks before joining will provide you with vital information regarding the fertility of the ram flock, and could increase your lambing percentage.

Rachael Holmes, District Veterinary Officer, Bendigo

Page last updated: 21 Jul 2021