South Africa’s breeding season begins in September, and if you own small livestock like goats, pigs, and sheep, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared. A good breeding season can help improve your animals’ reproductive performance, which can in turn have a positive effect on your profit margin – so the more prepared you are for what lies ahead, the better.

So how can you ensure you prepare for breeding season properly? Let’s take a look.

Goats

Before you begin to breed your goats, you’ll want to make sure they’re as healthy as possible – this will ensure optimal conception. In order to check the condition of your does, simply place your hand over their spine, just behind the rib cage. If they are too thin or too fat, this could affect their chances of conception. Ideally, your does should have a good proportion of muscle, with a healthy layer of fat over their bones.

You’ll also want to make sure your does are at the right age for breeding, which is usually between nine and 12 months, or once they reach 60% of their adult weight. Any younger than this, and a doe’s growth will be affected, which will impact your breeding season in the long run.

Optimal nutrition is essential in ensuring successful breeding, and this starts with proper grazing, which has a significant impact on milk production and weaning. Flush feeding (healthy weight gain to improve conception rates) six to eight weeks before mating can also help to increase reproductive performance.

Similarly, good supplementation, such as Vitamin A, D and E, as well as zinc, is also important. Giving your animals vitamin and mineral supplementation leads to healthier births and improved milk production, while allowing does to recover faster. The sooner does are able to stand after kidding, the sooner kids are able to suckle and grow strong.

Inoculations are equally as important, and you’ll want to make sure that all your animals are dewormed, dipped, and inoculated against bluetongue three months prior to breeding season. Additionally, ensure you inoculate against enzootic abortion eight weeks before breeding, and that you administer a clostridial inoculation six weeks beforehand, in order to pass immunity on from doe to kid.

Pigs

As with goats, pigs need to be in good health prior to breeding season in order to ensure successful conception. With this in mind, make sure to assess your herd beforehand for any signs of distress, illness or infection. Make sure your pigs are breathing normally, with no coughing or wheezing, and that their coats are shiny, and free from any scabs, wounds or discolouration.

All sows and boars that you choose for breeding should have a strong, straight back and legs, and should be able to move freely, with no difficulties in their mobility. Additionally, they should also be at an optimal weight for breeding. When checking a sow’s weight, make sure that there is enough fat covering their bones – should you be able to see any bones under the skin, such as the ribs, backbone or hip, this is an indication that they are too thin. Similarly, sows that are too fat will also have breeding problems, and may develop difficulties with their feet or legs.

Make sure to consider the age of your herd as well, as this can also affect reproduction. Sows can be kept until their litter size dwindles significantly, or they develop any reproductive issues, while boars should not be kept over the age of three years.

Sheep

Preparing your sheep for breeding season can have a significant impact on successful conception, and can help to improve wean percentage too – which ultimately has a direct effect on your profit margin.

As with goats and pigs, optimal nutrition leading up to breeding season is essential, and flush feeding can show a substantial improvement in lambing percentage. Ensure that you supplement your ewes’ diet with high quality feed to help them gain weight – this will directly impact their ovulation and their chances of conception. Continue to provide good, healthy nutrition three weeks before breeding season, making sure to supplement with important vitamins like A and E. This will help to ensure optimal fertilisation.

Good health also means vaccinating your herd against diseases and internal parasites, and deworming should also form part of this process. Vaccinations against diseases like enzootic abortion, pulpy kidney and bluetongue should be administered before mating season begins, with all vaccines given at least four weeks prior to the start of breeding.

As far as your ewes’ general health goes, you’ll want to make sure that all sheep selected for breeding have healthy udders to ensure optimal weaning, and healthy teeth for successful grazing. Damaged udders and worn teeth will affect their condition negatively, and may even impact milk production, which in turn will have an effect on new-born lambs’ health. The healthier your herd is prior to mating, the more successful your breeding season will ultimately be.

Keep your herd healthy with Global Animal Supplies

When it comes to livestock nutrition and supplementation, at Global Animal Supplies our range of vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements and pharmaceutical products is designed to keep your herd in the best of health all year round. So if you’re looking to start preparing your animals for the breeding season ahead, make sure you browse our range first – and let’s get your herd healthy together.

References:

1. https://southafrica.co.za/pig-breeding.html

2. https://za.virbac.com/home/every-health-care/pagecontent/every-advices/preparation-of-sheep-ewes-for-ma.html

3. https://www.molatek.co.za/flush-feeding-in-ewes/

4. https://www.farmersweekly.co.za/farm-basics/how-to-livestock/the-importance-of-having-a-breeding-season/

5. https://www.agriorbit.com/prepare-your-ewes-for-the-mating-season/

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