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Reminder to carry out a 'ram MOT' in good time.

SHEEP farmers are being advised to check the health of their rams in readiness for the next breeding season.

According to a survey conducted by Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) on the management of rams pre- and post-tupping, 56% of farmers could potentially improve the way they maintain the condition of their rams for the breeding period.

"Simply turning rams out to a field for winter could mean that some ailments are being left unseen or untreated and can become a bigger problem at the end of the summer," said HCC's industry development officer Gwawr Parry.

"It is important to undertake a full 'ram MOT' prior to the breeding season, looking at their testicles, body condition score, feet and teeth, and whether their vaccinations and fluke treatments are up to date," she added.

"Ensuring rams are at peak condition could make a difference of hundreds of pounds in financial returns for farm businesses."

Tom Searle, from South Wales Farm Vets, is one of the growing numbers of vets who have initiated a ram fertility package available to farmers to test their ram teams. The package was available to farmers for last year's breeding season and will be continuing this year.

"It is important that farmers are aware of their rams' fertility status as well as applying the correct management strategy. A ram that is sub-fertile could be costing farms in terms of barren ewes and an increase in lambing spread," he said.

New figures have shown that measures taken on-farm before tupping time can have a significant impact on increasing lamb output the following year.

Data from the Wales Veterinary Science Centre (WVSC) for 2017 revealed that enzootic abortion (EAE) is still the most common cause of infectious abortion in sheep flocks in Wales.

EAE can result in abortion during the last three weeks of gestation or the birth of weak lambs that die soon after birth. Where a diagnosis of infectious abortion was made, EAE accounted for 37%, followed by toxoplasmosis at 18%. Schmallenberg virus infection accounted for 6% of lamb losses.

Farmers are being encouraged to consult their vet to plan a vaccination policy in time for the next lambing season. The cost of vaccination is more than offset by the income from greater numbers of healthy lambs being born and the cost of barren ewes, Ms Parry said: "The most effective time to vaccinate is six weeks before tupping, so this is the perfect opportunity for farmers to review their flock health strategies."

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 5, 2017
Words:418
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