Feeding of and caring for the ram lamb

This is the period during which the growth of the fetus, primary wool follicle development as well as udder tissue development take place. The growth of the fetus at this critical stage will eventually determine body mass; primary wool follicle development will determine wool production and udder tissue development is required to ensure that the ewe will have sufficient colostrum and milk production to feed the ram to full potential after birth. The secondary wool follicle development takes place from birth and for three weeks thereafter.


At six weeks before birth, is when the eventual growth potential of the fetus can receive the most damage due to incorrect feeding. Apart from the lost potential due to malnutrition, it can also result in low birth mass (2 to 3kg) and mortalities.

The feed requirements of a pregnant ewe are 3,5% of her body mass. Wellbalanced nutrition is necessary for the production of good colostrum, which determines the immunity of the ram over his lifespan. Maintain a good ratio of 68% energy to 16% protein in respect of her nutrition.


In order to optimally feed the ram lamb, the lactating ewe requires 4,5% of her body mass as daily feed. Creep feeding must be set up from 10 days after birth and is essential since it will determine the ram's eating pattern over its lifespan. The ability of the ram to adjust to its feed, is essential since rams often change owners and feed patters as a result. Feed changes can result in infertility since it takes approximately 21 days for the micro-organisms to adjust to the next ration. Every ram requires approximately 25 kg of creep feeding until it is weaned at 100 days.

Good feed management requires monitoring of the ram lamb's progress by the farmer. Decide what the weight of your rams should be at two-tooth selling stage, draw up a table and monitor by weighing on a monthly basis.

Should the ram lamb weigh 40 kg at weaning age and its target weight is 88 kg, its weight has to increase by 48 kg over 12 months (365 days). Monitor if it grows by approximately 4 kg per month or 110 grams, as required.


The next guidelines are valuable in ensuring good ram management from weaning to auction.

  • At + 42 days, take fecal samples and dose if necessary. This is also a good time to do trace element and vitamin A supplements to strengthen mucous membranes.
  • At 80 days, inject against pulpy kidney and pasteurella to limit mortalities after weaning.
  • Wean at 100 days and weigh the ram. Performance measurement starts her and is also required for BLUP selection later on. Weaning selection is done and 15% to 20% of the poorest ram performers are rejected. It is important to record the descendants which do not grow in order to discriminate against the parents. Sell poor performers. The birth register and weaning record must be sent to SA Pedigree.
  • After weaning, rams can do the so-called libido course. Approximately 30 poor performing ewes are put in a pen with the ram lambs and they continuously mate with the ewes. It improves libido and mating skills, which makes them top performers in respect of future reproduction.
  • Ram lambs are also shorn at this stage. Fleece is weighed to assist with the decision as to whether other lambs should be shorn or whether they should be sold with their wool.
  • During this period, Rev 1 can be administered to increase immunity against brucella ovis.
  • Rams must get a lot of exercise - being fit improves fertility. The mating ability of overweight and unfit rams is usually not very good.
  • 180 days after having been shorn, the performance of the lambs is evaluated. They are weighed, a 30-gram wool sample is taken from the midrib areas and sent to the SA Wool Testing Bureau for analysis. The ram is also shorn and the fleece weighed. Performance forms must be completed scrupulously and accurately and sent to SA Pedigree.


Auction rams will carry 6 to 7 months' wool on auction day. Take a last small wool sample (EST) which is tested for Micron, Sd, CV and Comfort % and indicated at the second test on the catalogue. Final evaluation is done by the inspectors at the auction. Rams must be tested for fertility and a certificate has to be handed to the buyer. Rams are exposed to a lot of stress at auctions. It is therefore necessary that rams should eat and drink well before being loaded. Handling at the auction, transport and feed adjustment can result in temporary infertility. It is fatal to shear a ram shortly after an auction since it could result in total infertility. Keep feed constant (seller could add a bag of pellets to the transaction), and allow the rams time to adjust and to rest in order to avoid infertility as a result of adjustment. Assist the ram with adjusting to its new environment by dosing with Protexin Solube, Bioboost or Bio-min. Remember to innoculate against pulpey kidney and pasteurella. Rams make a huge contribution to the economic performance of the herd and for this reason, ram management should commence six weeks before birth and should be sustained.