I have been asked, what is sponging ewes? I think the people asking this question have an image in their minds eye of me giving the ewes a bubble bath with a sponge. This would be way too time consuming and take farming to a level well beyond my work load capacity.
Sponging ewes before they go to the ram makes the ewes all cycle at the same time so they come into season all together. Which means in the spring when it is lambing time I have a very intense few days of lambing instead of it being dragged out over 4 weeks. When you sponge ewes the ram has a lot of hard work to do covering (inseminating) all the ewes in a very short space of time. Some times the ram can’t do all the work at once. So the ewes that have been missed by the ram the first time around return into season about 3 weeks later. With this tight breeding schedule this enables me to do all the lambing myself because I will have two sets of lambing dates and a break of 10 days to recover lack of sleep in the middle of the lambing season.
I get all the ewes in and separate out the ewe lambs as I will not be breeding from them this year, only the hoggets and mature ewes.
The first stage is to get the sponge out wearing gloves as they have 20mg of Flugestone Acetate which is a potent progestogen, which will lengthen the di-oestrus stage of the reproductive cycle. This is the stage before the ewe comes into season so when you remove the sponge in 14 days and give her an injection of PMSG which stimulates the start of the synchronised oestrus and then the ovulation follows. Which is when the ram gets interested and all that loving begins.
First lifting the ewes tail and bringing the point of the applicator to the vagina entrance. The next stage is to insert the front end of the applicator gently into the vagina at about 10-15 cm depth.
Many pure breed sheep breeders who show sheep use sponges to get their sheep to come into oestrus very early in the year when it is not natural breeding season so they can lamb in December or January. This is so they have strapping big lambs come showing season in the summer months. I sponge during the natural breeding season so the ewes would already be doing their oestrus cycling anyway but as I said sponging gives my lambing in the spring a calculated time table for when I will be lacking in sleep, going out to the sheds and when the sheep will be lambing.