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Ram Breeding Guidelines Renewed

16 October 2014

UK - Important guidelines on the examination of rams for breeding have now been officially updated, thanks to the pooled expertise of delegates at a recent Sheep Fertility Workshop, sponsored by Ceva Animal Health, the Sheep Veterinary Society and EBLEX-AHDB.

In order to maintain good flock health plans it is important that rams are routinely assessed to ensure the efficacy of breeding programmes. The previous Sheep Veterinary Society Guidelines on the examination of rams for breeding were drawn up for this purpose back in 2007.

However, to date, there has been considerable variation in the practice of ram fertility testing amongst sheep vets across the country.

The Workshop, which was held in Edinburgh in June 1014, brought together veterinary experts and scientists to discuss the provision of a comprehensive, evidence-based, best practice protocol, with clear recommendations for practitioners on the assessment of rams.

Dr Fiona Lovatt, senior vice president of the Sheep Veterinary Society and director of Flock Health Ltd, who coordinated the Workshop, explained: “Ram fertility testing should be seen as a risk assessment with an aim of maximising the numbers of pregnant ewes. It is really important that farmers discuss their expectations and the limitations with their vet.”

The updated Guidelines cover three levels of ram pre-breeding examinations (PBE):

  1. Ram MOT – this involves a clinical examination, together with palpation and visual inspection of the external genitalia. It is generally accepted that all rams should be examined annually in this way.
  2. Semen assessment - this can be useful for infertility investigations. Use of an artificial vagina is the gold standard method of semen collection though this is not always practical. Electro-ejaculation may be used routinely but only where the rams are to be used in a high-pressure situation such as single sire groups or with synchronised or large numbers of ewes.
  3. PBE Certification may be required for sale or insurance purposes. The vet must keep full records and it is expected that this would include full assessment of semen with morphology undertaken.

Carol Atkinson, Ceva’s reprodAction range marketing manager, said: “We are proud to have supported the Workshop, the outcome of which has been some valuable modifications to the Guidelines. We now have a robust, practical benchmarking system in place to help ensure consistency of ram fertility and flock health and production.”

The Workshop was funded by the Sheep Veterinary Society, Ceva Animal Health and EBLEX-AHDB, with contributions in kind from Innovis, Zoetis and Novartis Animal Health.

TheSheepSite News Desk

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