Understanding sheep housing requirements for successful livestock farming

March 21

Today, meeting sheep housing requirements is crucial for successful livestock farming and to ensure the well-being and productivity of your flock. And it’s not a choice either; the Department for Environment, Food, & Rural Affairs in England has published standards around suitable housing options and sheep shelters to cater to the various needs of sheep and lambs year-round. These standards not only cover the basics like feed and water but also cover other aspects of welfare including health management, breeding, lambing, and emergency provisions—all integral for maintaining a healthy flock.

Therefore, if you’re planning to enhance your sheep housing arrangements, it’s really important to first understand the regulations and standards around sheep housing and then take steps to meet these essential requirements.

Read on to learn more about sheep housing requirements and how you can ensure your flock has clean, hygienic, and comfortable housing in all seasons.

Why is it important to understand the requirements of sheep housing?

Understanding the housing needs of sheep matters a lot as housing arrangements impact your flock’s welfare and productivity, especially when it comes to lambing. Good sheep housing provides adequate shelter from the elements, which is very important in the winter to reduce the lamb mortality rate. It also dramatically reduces the likelihood of stillbirth, underscoring the significant role of robust and reliable sheep shelters.

Climate and seasonal needs

Depending on the season of lambing, the weather, and your preferences, the sheep housing requirements vary greatly throughout the year. For example, robust lambing sheds become very important during inclement weather. On the contrary, lighter and simpler structures will be adequate during mild weather.

Health and management considerations

While there is evidence showing housing can exacerbate the spread of diseases in a flock, organised housing also offers the opportunity to closely observe the flock, making it easier to detect and treat illnesses. This shows the importance of good management of the flock within housed environments. Farms should include areas for feed and bedding storage, equipment storage, quarantine zones for new or sick animals, and separate housing for rams to ensure a holistic approach to sheep care.

Design for comfort and safety

It’s equally important to prioritise the health and well-being of the flock and design the sheep housing accordingly. Key considerations to make when designing sheep housing include ensuring sufficient space for normal activities and social interactions, proper ventilation to maintain a safe temperature, and protection from predators. The objective is to create a living space that supports the well-being of the flock throughout the year.

How should efficient sheep shelters be designed?

First and foremost, you should consider the natural behaviour of the sheep and how you’re going to handle that behaviour within sheep shelters. This can include adding visual cues to direct the movement of the flock and creating spaces for easy access, which will reduce the stress for the sheep and the handlers.  

You should also consider different aspects related to the construction of the shelter. For example, choose solid flooring with good drainage systems to reduce discomfort and injury and to improve overall hygiene. 

In addition, make sure that your livestock housing of choice has good ventilation. Design solid walls up to just above animal height with ventilation inlets above, ensuring a healthy environment free from draughts. You can choose from a variety of building types, from traditional brands, pole buildings, metal buildings, hoop houses, and modular sheltered environments.

Incorporating these elements into your sheep housing design fosters a conducive environment for your flock’s health and productivity, aligning with legal and welfare standards.

What are the seasonal considerations for sheep housing?

Seasonal considerations are crucial in sheep housing to ensure the well-being of the flock throughout the year.
For instance, your flock will benefit by spending the majority of the day outside during the summer, where they can enjoy better ventilation, exercise, and cleaner fleeces. On the contrary, it’s essential to provide adequate shelter and shade in more humid weather to protect your flock from stress and heat.

Winter presents a different set of challenges and opportunities. The winter season offers considerable feed savings, as sheep can graze through now up to a foot deep, considerable feed savings. But it’s important to ensure nursing ewes have constant access to water and optimal nutrition. This helps improve the survival of the flock during the colder months. To improve comfort, you can make modifications to the sheep housing to eliminate drafts, provide clean and dry bedding, and ensure access to hay.

In addition, the temperature inside the sheep housing should be monitored 24/7 to avoid extremes, which can cause serious harm to the shop. For maximum comfort, the indoor temperature should be between 10°C and 24°C. Depending on the sheep’s fleece length, maintaining humidity levels between 40% and 60% can help prevent respiratory issues and ensure a comfortable environment.

Finally, property ventilation is crucial to minimise ammonia levels and promote a healthy living space, highlighting the importance of a well-considered housing design that accommodates seasonal variations.

How can you deploy and maintain sheep housing?

This requires taking an approach that finds the right balance between functionality and the well-being of the flock. You can begin by assessing the requirements of your flock and checking the adequacy of current structures. 

Here are some more tips to maintain a clean and healthy housing environment for your flock: 

  • Do a deep clean to remove all organic matter and allow the area to dry completely before introducing sheep to the housing
  • Consult a veterinarian on the appropriate disinfectants for pens, especially those used by lambs with scouring issues
  • Clean feeding troughs, bedding, and other areas of the shelter thoroughly to minimise disease spread

Provide your flock with comfortable housing by understanding sheep housing requirements

Rearing sheep and providing them with a safe and healthy environment to graze and shelter is of utmost importance to ensure their well-being and understanding sheep housing requirements can go a long way in achieving this objective. 

From space and design considerations accommodating various climate conditions and sheep’s behavioural patterns to essential features ensuring comfort, safety, and efficient management, you need to meticulously plan the housing to not only promote a conducive environment but also align with legal and welfare standards.

If you’re considering investing in sheep housing that will enable you to maximise the well-being of your flock and also follow industry best practices, get in touch with experts who specialise in building and deploying bespoke livestock housing in the UK.