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Wednesday, 08 October 2008 12:30

Don't castrate your ram lambs

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Before you get the rings out to castrate your lambs this Spring, decide if it’s a wise move to turn them into wethers. Ram lambs grow fast so if you sell them to the meat works early, leave them entire.

This is as long as you get rid of them before they start to erupt their first pair of incisors. Then they are no longer a "lamb" as defined by the meat industry. They are "hoggets" as far as farm terminology goes. Our meat markets overseas don’t like the word hogget. And we all know that it tastes better than young lamb anyway.

The only problem you may have with all these ram lambs around is to forget – and when it comes to Autumn, one of these lads does the deed that you had saved up for your expensive stud ram. And they will serve ewes with the greatest of pleasure.

There is an alternative – that is to make them into Cryptorchids. These have nothing to do with flowers! Here at docking, instead of putting the ring ABOVE the testicles sitting in the scrotum, you push the testicles back up into the body cavity and put the ring on BELOW them to cut off the empty scrotum. They look like rams in very tight underpants!

Now beware. The theory says that if testicles are housed in the body cavity, they’ll be 2-3 degrees warmer and hence the sperm will be sterile. That’s true for most of the time, but nature works in wondrous ways and some of these young lads will fool you and beget lambs. So again get rid of them before Autumn.

If you are going to castrate using rubber rings, you can do it at birth or when the lambs are 2-3 weeks old or a bit older. The younger the better to reduce stress. Remember the rule about where to put the ring – make sure you have both testicle in the scrotum and leave the rudimentary teats out ie. above the ring.

Dr Clive Dalton

Clive did a Ph.D. in sheep breeding at the University of North Wales at Bangor. After lecturing at Leeds University, he came to New Zealand to do research with MAF. Because of his communication skills, he moved to the Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre to be fully involved in interpreting science for practical application by farmers.

After 14 years he moved to teach at the Waikato Polytechnic where he taught young future farmers. He won the 1993 Landcorp Communicator of the Year award and the 1999 Sir Arthur Ward award for agricultural communication.