Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 September 2010
Exploiting the ‘ram effect’ is an inexpensive alternative for out-of-season breeding in moderately seasonal breeds. For maximum efficacy in Corriedale sheep, oestrous ewes have to be introduced together with the teaser rams. Successful applications depend upon timely manipulation of the animals to induce oestrus in most ewes and to minimize the likelihood of successfully induced non-pregnant ewes returning to anoestrus during the mating period.
In the first of two experiments, the effects of two alternative ram: ewe ratios (1:6 or 1:12) and five different doses (0, 15, 30, 45 or 60 mg) of medroxy-progesterone acetate (MAP) applied in intravaginal sponges for 9 days were assessed on seasonally anovular adult Corriedale ewes. Control ewes (0 MAP) did not receive sponges, but were injected with 20 mg progesterone at ram introduction. A second experiment tested the efficacy of post-oestrus intravaginally applied MAP (30 mg; 7-day treatment starting on days 3 to 6 after oestrus) for improving reproductive variables of successfully induced ewes exposed to entire rams.
Proportions of ewes ovulating and ovulation rates (assessed through laparoscopy) did not differ significantly (P > 0·05) in ewes treated with various MAP doses (213/220 = 96·8% and 1·26 (s.e. 0·031) respectively) or injected with progesterone (56/58 = 96·6% and 1·21 (s.e. 0·058) respectively). The MAP content of the sponges did not affect (V > 0·05) the proportion of ewes ovulating (269/278), marked by the rams (197/213), returning to oestrus (81/197) or lambing among those not returning to first oestrus (87/119). More ewes were marked in the groups exposed to a higher ram percentage (79·7 to 70·6%; P < 0·001) but no other reproductive variable was affected by the ram: ewe ratio at ram introduction (P > 0·05). In the second experiment, post oestrus progestagen supplementation reduced the proportion of ewes returning to first oestrus from 27% to 16% (P < 0·05) but failed to improve lambing rate or the number of lambs born per ewe lambing. Thus, MAP doses as low as 0·25 of the commercial formulation (60 mg) induced oestrus in seasonally anovulatory Corriedale ewes exposed to rams and oestrous ewes. Increasing the ram: ewe ratio augmented the proportion of marked ewes but did not affect any other reproductive variable. Supplementing MAP after oestrus did not improve reproductive rate in Corriedale ewes induced to ovulate during the seasonal anoestrus.