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What are wethers good for?

 
pollinator
Posts: 426
Location: Upstate SC
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If you are running a sheep breeding operation, it's most efficient if you run almost 100% ewes, selling the ram lambs in the fall, and keeping a ram just through the fall breeding season or for a couple of years between replacements.

But wethers can have a purpose on a sheep breeding operation.  If you maintain a ram sequestered from the ewes outside of the breeding season to keep a short defined lambing season or for safety reasons (potential aggression), then keeping one or two large skittish wethers are a great help in managing the ram.  Choose large wethers so the ram is less likely to try to beat up on the wethers, and skittish so the ram maintains its fear of you since its herd mates are obviously afraid of you.

The other place that a wether is useful is when you wean lambs.  Putting a calm wether in with the newly weaned lambs gives them a calm older herd mate who " knows the ropes" and keeps them calm and handle able by providing a calm role model.  

In both of these situations try to pick wethers who are leaders rather than followers so that they have a stronger influence on the rest of their herd.

If you are training herding dogs, wethers are better training companions than either small, skittish yearling ewes or breeding age ewes that are either pregnant, with lambs, or have large udders that can be easily injured by young puppy you are training.

 
pollinator
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Absolutely nothing?

Sorry, I have an inconvenient song in my head.

(We-thers, HMPH! Ye-ah! What are - they good for/absolutely NOTHIN'!)

This only applies to fibre, but I have heard that in some cases, wethers make better fibre. I had previously only applied the use of wethers to dual-purpose operations, but other than for meat and hide, I couldn't see the use, and most people I have talked to about it prefer lamb to mutton.

I hadn't thought of the training companion for canines angle, though. That's brilliant.

-CK
 
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Location: New Zealand
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Sausages!
 
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Location: Eastern Ontario
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I keep goats for weed control so I dont mind keeping wethers around.  They eat weeds too.  Once I have large enough of a flock then well I like goat sausage too.
 
Mike Turner
pollinator
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Wethers have the smallest appetite of any group of sheep.  Breeding ewes are the heaviest feeders, especially near the end of their pregnancy and towards the end of their lactation cycle, followed by weaned growing lambs.  Rams are heavier feeders than wethers since their high testosterone levels and one track minds keep their activity levels higher than that of a lazy wether.

Calm 2+ year old wethers are better for training young herding dogs than flighty younger wethers since they can be trained to stay with you and to come back to your feet (knee knocker sheep) as the young pup circles around you and the sheep in the earliest steps of their training.
 
Drew Moffatt
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I know that the superfine merino stations in the South Island of New Zealand run wethers as their fibre flock with enough ewes to keep up replacements.
I've never thought to ask why wethers rather than more ewes.
I'll ask around.
We've just got coarse wool crossbred ewes for the lambs here.
 
Drew Moffatt
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Hey main reason is that you can run wethers were you cant run ewes and especially ewes and lambs. They need very little feed in fact the less you feed them the finer their wool gets, one could argue that you could run a mob of ewes like wethers and when you have a good season put them in lamb as a bonus.

From a high country farmer I studied with when we both were fresh out of school.
 
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With goats, wethers are sometimes kept with does to alert the breeder as to when they are in heat. Even though they aren't fertile, they respond to the girls' heats by mounting and otherwise flirting. But I don't know if it's the same with sheep!
 
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