The Romance Between Ewes and Rams

  Ewe: Mature Female Sheep           Ram: Mature Male Sheep       Lamb: Baby Sheep not at Maturity

   Ewe--Courtesy of Sheep 101      Ram--Courtesy of Sheep 101        Lamb--from Microsoft Clipart

     There are many factors that effect the reproductive activity of sheep. Three factors include the temperature, nutrition, and social interactions among sheep. First, fertility within sheep tends to decrease if there are above average temperatures or if there is an unusual temperature change. Second, if a sheep isn't getting an adequate amount of nutrition, fertility will generally be lower, as you might expect would happen. And third, there is an event that occurs called the ram effect where if all of the rams are removed from a flock of ewes and reintroduced to the flock a month or two later, the fertility within the ewes increases.

Sun--from Microsoft Clipart

     Sheep are short-day breeders. Reproductive activity within short-day breeders is triggered by decreased daylight in a given day. This is why sheep in the United States usually breed during the fall, when the amount of light in a day starts decreasing. Other sheep breed all year round. Many sheep that breed all year long are found closer to the equator because the amount of daylight is more or less constant throughout the year.

Calendar--from Microsoft Clipart

     Depending on the species and nutrition, lambs reach puberty anywhere between 5 to 7 months. Once an ewe has matured, she will go through an estrous (heat) cycle approximately every 16.5 days. This is an average; heat cycles can range between 14 to 20 days. Once heat is reached, it can last from 3 hours to 72 hours. An average heat lasts 29 hours. Rams, on the other hand, will have their sperm all produced and ready to go within about 49 days.

     During h
Sheep in Love--Courtesy of Wikimedia Commonser heat, an ewe will find a ram to mate with and wait for him to mount her. Oftentimes, ewes will wag their tails or nudge up against a ram's belly or scrotum. Some forward ewes will even make the first move my mounting a ram. Rams are able to smell when an ewe is in heat. Once a ram knows of an ewe in heat, he will extend his leg and curl his lip. Ewes and rams opt to mate within their breed, but they are capable of mating with any sheep breed.        


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