Reproduction is an important factor affecting the profitability of sheep enterprises. It forms the basis of flock genetic improvement, transferring genes from one generation to the next, weaning more lambs and ultimately the production of prime lambs.
A high reproduction rate in a flock will:
- Provide more rapid genetic gain either through the ability to cull more heavily.
- Offer more sale lambs and/or surplus sheep for sale.
- Increase the potential to produce more wool.
Many factors influence and can impact on reproductive performance. Ewe and ram management should be carefully planned, particularly with respect to nutrition, the timing of the mating program and animal health, to maximise reproductive performance.
Sheep reproduction encompasses:
- Ram management - the ability to sire a large number of offspring in each mating season.
- Ewe management - the capacity to conceive and rear lambs to weaning each season following puberty.
- Ewe lamb and maiden ewe management - special consideration is required to ensure year on year breeding ability.
- Weaner management - reducing post-weaning mortality, lifetime productivity and enterprise profitability.
- Predation management - a control program for predatory and invasive animals is essential to productivity.
- Sheep health and reproductive diseases - any health issues will slow weight gain or cause weight loss resulting in lower reproductive rates.