Androvax and Hogget Mating
By A.E.Dinger (see also “Hogget mating” by Dr. Clive Dalton on www.lifestyleblock.co.nz)
Mating hoggets can be quite profitable if done properly, but it also has severe pitfalls which need to be addressed. Farm advisers/consultants and researchers are questioning why only about a third of farmers mate their hoggets.
The answer is easy. It’s difficult and, unless thoroughly prepared, doomed to failure, with stunted ewes and the best-potential ewes fading away.
In the late seventies, under guidance of Whatawhata Research Station, 12 farmers participated in a trial with mated hoggets. Most were ram breeders and on Sheeplan. Monitoring weight was an important part of the procedure. The trial lasted for three years. At a Sheeplan conference several years later, only three farmers were still mating their hoggets.Why?
Most found that with the (at the time) low lamb prices it was not worth the effort. Too many lambs died at birth, and too many potential good ewes deteriorated because they were mated as hoggets.
Now, with good prices for lambs, everybody wants to start hogget mating without realising how well prepared they need to be.
The farmer has to be ready to drop his intention to mate his hoggets at any time if conditions change, e.g. spore counts are high enough to cause sub-clinical Facial Eczema, a dry autumn, not enough winter feed, etc.
If mating has already happened the farmer will have to be prepared to buy in winterfeed or drop his stocking rate if a shortage of feed is looming.
Hoggets that produce twins need special attention and possibly extra food (high protein diet) in order to survive.
Remember that hoggets are the future breeding ewes, and if the job has been done right, these replacements should be genetically superior than the older ewes.
Lambs out of hoggets have to be weaned as early as possible (15 to 18kg) to give the hogget time to recover and grow before mating again.
Over the years I have sometimes used weak excuses not to mate my hoggets because of the bad experiences in previous years. Not enough tolerance for FE being possibly the main reason (and I dare say that the sub-clinical effects of FE is still not understood by a majority of farmers in our region), but the lack of understanding of feed requirements was also an important factor.
Hoggets are still growing themselves and have lambs growing inside them that grab what is needed for so long as it’s available. There can be no impediments to health or growth requirements of the ewe hogget, because otherwise the result could be detrimental rather than beneficial.
What I am most concerned about is the apparent good results from hogget mating with the help of Androvax. Please note that Androvax has NOT been licensed for use on hoggets. It is licensed for use on older ewes only, and if you use it on hoggets it is classed as off-label use and you have no comeback on the manufacturer if things go wrong. It is not known what the effect of Androvax will be on the ewe lamb’s reproductive system, since the first injection of Androvax would take place eight weeks before mating when the sheep is still immature.
Things will go wrong with crossbreds where a percentage of those twinning hoggets will not cope and deteriorate. What would you rather have, a live hogget or a hogget that has had twins but then dies from stress trying to rear them?
A farmer with 400 ewe hogget replacements won’t notice that say 20% of those that twinned as hoggets will not repeat their performance (unless these ewes were tagged and recorded).
If my opinion seems a bit like paranoia, maybe it is. I have made all the above mistakes over the years and it took me a long time to connect the feeding aspect.
The ewe hogget with lambs would need the same level of feed as a ewe with triplets.
With better knowledge and proper instruction and warnings, hoggets can be successfully mated, but Androvax has no place in the equation.