Autumn joining

AG ADVICE - February 2022

Brett Littler - Senior Land Services Officer, Livestock

Are your rams ready, willing and able?

With the continuing good season sheep should be in great condition for joining this autumn. To ensure that you maximise this favourable season it is time to look at your ewes. Assesses their condition and the feed/paddocks that you have for joining. Most producers have embraced this assessment of their ewes and pastures prior to joining, but what about your rams?

It is vitally important that prior to putting your rams out that you conduct an individual assessment of the rams to highlight any possible problem. So, how do you check your rams? Remember the four T’s


  • Look at the scrotum.  Check for any signs of thickenings, injuries, abscess, mange.
  • Palpate the spermatic cord, the region above the testes, attached to the body. Look for swellings, abscesses, hernias.
  • Palpate the epididymis, starting from the top and running around the outside of the testes to the base of the testes.  Check for any lumps, swellings, uneven size.
  • Examine and palpate the testicles.  Testes should be firm and uniform in size.  Soft, flabby testes may indicate poor fertility.  Flabby testes are associated with poor nutrition and disease.


  • Check prepuce for wounds and infection or sheath rot. Make sure the penis can move freely in the prepuce, and protrude out of the prepuce.
  • Check the penis for any injuries, infections or abnormalities that may prevent the ram from serving an ewe.


  • Check that the ram has a sound mouth, check age.  Make sure the ram has the best chance of making the most of the good nutrition on offer during joining.  Poor nutrition leads to infertility. Protein is required for producing healthy sperm. Feeding lupins for 2 months before joining will optimise sperm production.


  • Feet and legs.  A ram needs to have good working legs to get about and serve ewes.
  • Feet.  With wet weather, be alert to foot problems.
  • Interdigital dermatitis,
  • Footrot – if you suspect footrot please report it to your local LLS office.
  • Foot abscesses.
  • Check for joint swellings and abnormal hoof growth which may indicate chronic problems or arthritis.
  • Pension off any rams with these conditions.

The health of your ram will have a big influence on his ability to be ready willing and able. The last 12 months we have seen a number of issues with both worms and flies in our flocks, so, be aware of worms - Wormtest your rams and drench with an effective drench if needed and prevent flystrike.

If you are unsure, have them checked by your private vet.

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