News & Advice

Ram Soundness Exams

Nov 6, 2019 | Dry stock, Sheep

Lucy Scott, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Raglan

It’s that time of the year again! We expect to spend a good chunk of November and December behind large numbers of rams, palpating testicles to ensure Rams are fit for mating.

So what exactly are we feeling for back there?

A normal set of rams testicles are a certain size and firmness, with no restrictions in the scrotal skin, and no lumps, lesions or abnormalities.
Defects commonly found during palpation runs include:

  • Epididymitis (swellings/hard lumps at the top or bottom)
  • Micro-orchidism (small, underdeveloped testes)
  • Mono-orchidism (only one testicle present)
  • Cryptochidism (no testicles present)
  • Scarring and damage to the testicle or scrotum
  • Scrotal mange
  • Hernias

We will also often lay a hand on a rams back to body condition score them and observe if there are any other health issues such as lameness or viral pneumonia, which can have a significant effect on your rams’ fertility – a fever can cause reduced sperm production and quality for 60 days.

 When is the best time to do them?

Rams should be palpated a minimum of 6 weeks prior to mating, and traditionally we try get them done before the Christmas break so we have time to cull and replace unsuitable rams, remove brucellosis from the flock if there is an intrusion, and allow rams chosen as teasers to heal.

What is Brucella ovis?

Brucella ovis, a bacterium that circulates in sheep, is an economically important cause of epididymitis and reduced fertility in rams. 30-50% of infected rams develop a palpable lesion in the epididymis of the teste. Rams can become persistently infected, and transmit B. ovis to other males.
Ewes are relatively resistant to infection, and if they become infected, clear the organism in a short time, although this organism is also associated occasionally with abortions and increased perinatal mortality.
For flocks that have been recently infected it is usually possible to eradicate the disease by repeated blood testing and culling. In flocks that have been infected for a long period of time, it may be more practical and less expensive to replace the entire ram flock.
We will often recommend blood testing if new rams have been bought in or if we find a lesion, but also often screen sale rams. Accredited farms do annual palpations and blood testing.

It is also a good time to make some teaser rams

Ram palpation time is also a good time to create vasectomised teaser rams, so they have time to heal before tupping. Rams chosen for vasectomy should be strong and healthy, and young rams are preferable to older failed stud animals because they are relatively easy to operate on and there is less risk of them having previously acquired transmissible disease. However the chosen rams should have had some sexual experience and have well developed genitalia.

If you have any questions or to book in your rams for their annual check, call your local clinic.

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