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Ovine reproductive management: more than just counting sheep
  1. Marijke Beltman, DVM, PhD, DipECAR
  1. School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland
  1. E-mail: marijke.beltman{at}

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THE reproductive management of a sheep flock presents a number of challenges, not only because sheep are seasonal breeders, but also because of the many management steps that are involved in the sheep reproductive cycle. A simplified version of the flock reproductive management cycle is shown in Fig 1.

FIG 1:

Reproductive management cycle of a flock with mid-season lambing

The first step of breeding management is the selection of suitable ewes. Strong knowledge of the prolificacy of the selected breed is essential for later decision-making. The ewes should be in optimal body condition (between 3 and 3.5), have a good mouth, no feet or udder problems and no history of any obstetric problems. Closer to the planned start of the breeding season, a period of high nutrition known as ‘flushing’ will help to improve the chances of reproductive success (Robinson and others 2006). However, too much feeding has been shown to have a negative effect on fertility, therefore optimal nutritional management is about achieving a good balance (Boland and others 2001). …

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