Small Stock Farming: The Imperatives

Nichlas Mbingeneeko

First and foremost, on behalf of the Mbingeneeko & Seonduru family and indeed on my own behalf, I herewith extend my deepest condolences to Madame Monica Geingos, the Geingob family and the entire bereaved Namibian nation on the passing of our President, H.E. Dr Hage G Geingob. May his soul rest in power and his legacy fortify the Namibian House.

This article focuses on preparing small stock for mating and selecting an appropriate lambing or kidding season. Every facet of farming requires strategic planning, starting with the end in mind. Mating relates to the act of animals coming together to breed and produce offspring.

In preparing small stock for breeding, the farmer needs to make sure the ewes are neither too fat nor too lean one month before mating.

The ewes must be vaccinated against enzootic abortion one to two months before mating. In addition, the farmer must administer or inject Vitamins ADE (e.g. Embamin x Embavit) three weeks before the start of the mating season. The ewes must be about twelve months old (2-incissors) or older in age to be mated.

Ewes that were mated at younger age often battle with growth and insufficient milk production for their lambs or kids. The farmer needs to provide stimulant feed which may be in the form of 100g – 200g mealies (maize) daily per animal to the rams and ewes.

Stimulant feed serves to bring the ewes on heat and to stimulate the rams. The farmer needs to engage the services of a veterinarian so as to get all the rams tested for fertility.

Also, the farmer needs to put teaser rams among the ewes about 2 – 3 weeks before mating. The teaser rams encourage the ewes to come on heat a week or two earlier than normal at the start of the mating season.

Teaser rams synchronize the ewes and tighten the lambing period. Teaser rams are rams that have been vasectomized for them to become sterile but still produce testosterone.

Testosterone is the male sex hormone that is made in the testicles. Vasectomized rams have normal libido and they will mate ewes, but the ewes will not conceive due to the sterility or infertility of the rams. It is imperative that the farmer decides on a particular lambing or kidding season.

In selecting a lambing or kidding season, the farmer must ensure that livestock give birth at times when a plentiful supply of food is available, preferably during January, February and March after good rains.

A carefully selected lambing or kidding season also ensures that a plentiful supply of food is available three to four months after weaning. An ideal lambing or kidding season is one that alleviates the burden of feeding expenses on the farmer.

The mating period must be kept as short as possible, preferably 36 days so as to give each ewe two cycles with a ram. The two cycles facilitate management & marketing considerably.

During mating the farmer may employ a number of mating methods, i.e. mass mating, single mating, hand mating and artificial insemination. In mass mating, one ram can mate about 40 ewes.

It goes therefore without saying that the ideal ratio of ram to ewe is 1:40, i.e. one ram for every flock of forty ewes. Where infrastructure permits, the farmer needs to separate young ewes from mature ewes during mass mating.

In instances where young, immature rams are used in mass mating, the ideal ratio of ram to ewe is 1:25, i.e. one young ram for every flock of twenty-five young ewes.

It is advisable that young ewes are put with young rams for mating. In the event of single mating, one ram can mate 40 ewes kept together in one camp. The farmer may also make use of hand mating where a ram can mate an ewe naturally every half hour, in a cool weather, as ewes come on heat through synchronization.

Synchronization refers to the process of manipulating the estrus cycle resulting in synchronized ewes coming on heat simultaneously. The farmer may also make use of artificial insemination as a mating method. In a nutshell, artificial insemination relates to the act of depositing a sperm suspension, fresh or frozen-thawed, manually into the female reproductive tract, using appropriate equipment and material.

Synchronized ewes may be mated through hand mating or artificial insemination. The next article will focus on preparing the ewes for lambing or kidding.

Nichlas Mbingeneeko is a renowned small stock farmer and a stud breeder of repute. His stud known as Skuilhoek Stud, in Aranos district, Hardap Region, consists of the Boer Goat, Damara Sheep and the Veldmaster Sheep. If you subscribe to genetic superiority, make Skuilhoek Stud your supplier of choice. His next production auction will be on 22 February 2024 @ 18h00, in Windhoek, Namibia, onsite & online.

Nichlas Mbingeneeko wrote this article in his personal capacity

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