Marking harness and raddle tips for a better breeding season
- Put on the marking harness 2-3 days before the ram goes out with the ewes. This allows time for the rams to adapt to wearing the harness and allows for the shepherd to adjust the harness for a proper fit.
- Switch crayon colors throughout the breeding season. This allows us to narrow down if/when a ewe was bred. This comes in handy during lambing season if you sort ewes into the barn based on when they were bred.
- Keep track of the weather. If you’re using a harness and crayons they need to be the recommended crayon for the outside temperature. If you experience significant cool mornings but hot days, pick the crayon range for when you notice your ram actively breeding. So if the ram is more active when it is hot, use a hot crayon and vice versa.
- An alternative to harnesses is raddle powder.
- Apply raddle powder with OB Gloves or latex gloves. Reapply every 2-5 days.
- Once a week we bring the flock in to check which ewes have new marks. We then document their ear tag number. When it’s time to for the ewes to lamb, we sort them off based on their breeding date. We’re able to tell who is who b/c of the their tag number.
Both are excellent management tools for streamlining your breeding and lambing seasons.
Marking harnesses allow you to switch colors throughout the season unlike raddle powder, which limits you to one color per season. Marking harnesses also involve less mess. Raddle also needs multiple reapplications throughout the season. Crayon marks though not considered scourable in the U.S., wear off much quicker than raddle marks.
Raddle powder is not temperature dependent; it works just as well at 90ºF as it does at 20ºF. Raddle marker does not have to be attached to a ram like a marking harness thus there is less stress on the ram.
It is difficult to switch colors of raddle powder mid-season. The wool on the brisket needs to be clean in order to prevent a mixing of the colors. It can be done. We recommend first using the lightest color available. Use darker colors each time you switch.
Wrestling a harness onto a rambunctious ram is not always an easy task. Though the payoff is a properly fitted harness.
When using a marking harness make sure it is correctly fitted to the ram. An improperly fitted harness can cause chafing of the ram’s under arm area. This is common with animals that have little wool cover in this area. The friction between the strap and the animal can rub the skin raw.
Check the harness for proper fit several times throughout the season. Rams can lose weight during the breeding season. The combination of exercise and lack of food consumption (they have other things on their mind) reduces the ram’s girth, causing the straps to loosen. Harnesses can also loosen as the straps work their way into the wool.
Readjustment of the harness should occur when the flock is brought in for documenting marks or when the crayon is changed. The harness should be tight to the ram’s body and exhibit minimal movement. Don’t forget that the crayon also needs to be positioned between the legs.
See video on replacing marking crayons.
Download PDF Marking Crayon Insertion Instructions.