Breeding soundness exams render better lambing, kidding seasons


Using only one ram? If you don’t do a breeding soundness exam, you’re risking big bucks.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — As fall breeding season kicks in, sheep and goat owners are reminded breeding soundness exams for rams and bucks can take the guessing out of choosing fertile sires.

Purdue Extension Small Ruminants Specialist Michael Neary says 10 percent of all rams and bucks are infertile going into the breeding season, which for some producers has already begun.

What causes infertility

Infertility can be temporary or permanent and is caused by a variety of circumstances.

“Infertility or inability to breed can happen because of health problems, structural unsoundness, rams too fat or too thin, or it can be impaired semen quality,” Neary said.

“Also, rams can become temporarily infertile due to a high body temperature.”

High body temperatures in rams and bucks may result from high environmental temperatures or a fever. This can impair their fertility for 6-8 weeks.

Fertility in rams and bucks is important, especially to small flock producers, who have only a small, one-ram/buck herd, Neary said.

“If their ram happens to be one of the 10 percent with breeding problems, it can cause a big setback for farmers financially.”

Call your vet

Producers can have a veterinarian test their ram’s or buck’s ability to breed by evaluating the animal’s structural soundness, reproductive anatomy and semen.

These evaluations make up the components of a breeding soundness exam, or BSE, that may be conducted 30 days before the breeding season, to choose a fertile ram or buck to impregnate breeding females.

Read more online. The steps required to do a BSE are detailed in an Extension article written by Neary and others from the Department of Animal Sciences. It is available at


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