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Author Topic: Housing sheep  (Read 3807 times)

novicesmallholder

  • Joined Oct 2009
  • Worcestershire
Housing sheep
« on: May 30, 2013, 08:57:28 pm »
Hi,
 
we are going to go to planning to ask for PP for a new barn.
 
We are trying to calculate the size required for 25 ewes.
 
Just wondering how people house your sheep?
 
Do you create seperate areas for each ewe and lambs?
Put them all into together?
Keep the expectant ewes together/mothers and babies in seperate area?
 
Such a big investment we need to get it right first time.
 
Any input would be much appreciated.
 
Ta,
 
Mark
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Voss Electric Fence

VSS

  • Joined Jan 2009
  • Pen Llyn
    • Viable Self Sufficiency.co.uk
Re: Housing sheep
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2013, 10:14:28 pm »
If you think you can get it past planning (and can afford it), get a shed that is a bit bigger than you think you will need. You will need space to store hay, straw, feed, machinery etc, as well as the rest of your sheep as your flock expands.

There are loads of companies that will make simple single pitch steel framed buildings for very little. Have a look on the Farmer's Guardian for ideas.
The SHEEP Book for Smallholders
Available from the Good Life Press

www.viableselfsufficiency.co.uk

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Housing sheep
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2013, 10:16:43 pm »
Soil Association space standards are usually my starting point - they say 1.5 sq.m. per ewe plus lambing pens of 2.35 sq.m for a ewe with twins (from memory but they are available from the SA website).

You need to allow at least 50cm of trough space per ewe - and you need to have the troughs in a line not on opposite sides of the pen or the ewes will run back and forward between them in case they are missing something. Not sure I've described that very well  ::)

Good water supply. Concrete floor not necessary - in fact can give drainage issues. Packed earth or sand will do.

Ventilation essential - draught proof to 1.2m (above sheep height) then Yorkshire boarding or similar.

We have all the pregnant ewes together; when they lamb they go into an individual pen for 48 hours, then they go out. If they weren't going out, I'd put them in a seperate area from those waiting to lamb.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Housing sheep
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2013, 08:25:12 am »
I think I would go for a properly drained cement floor if you can - you can't disinfect an earth floor as easily as a cement one, and if you do get an infection running through the newborns, it can be very hard to get it stopped in earth-floored pens. (Ask me how I know.)   Just make sure all individual pens drain forward or back into a channel that takes the fluid away out of the area that houses sheep; if the pens drain across each other, that can actually transmit disease.  Not sure I've explained that very well - basically try to ensure that effluent from lambing pens goes straight outside without passing another sheep, and definitely not another newborn lamb.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

novicesmallholder

  • Joined Oct 2009
  • Worcestershire
Re: Housing sheep
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2013, 02:34:32 pm »
Thanks,
 
the sheep are the starting point, then will bolt on additional space for machinary, feed, hay etc. Seems the concensus is the expectant ewes can be put together, but those with lambs go in their own pen? That is what we would be looking to do. (Would seem to be the most cost effective with 25 runs - cost hurdles and drinkers)
We would be looking to put a concrete floor.
If we say had a 60' x 30' barn, where would you suggest the best place for a door, for light ventilation on the 60' wall or the 30' wall?
 
Thanks again for you help.
 
Mark

gulli

  • Joined Jul 2012
Re: Housing sheep
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2013, 11:18:03 pm »
Thanks,
 
the sheep are the starting point, then will bolt on additional space for machinary, feed, hay etc. Seems the concensus is the expectant ewes can be put together, but those with lambs go in their own pen? That is what we would be looking to do. (Would seem to be the most cost effective with 25 runs - cost hurdles and drinkers)
We would be looking to put a concrete floor.
If we say had a 60' x 30' barn, where would you suggest the best place for a door, for light ventilation on the 60' wall or the 30' wall?
 
Thanks again for you help.
 
Mark
better to put them in single pens a day or two before they are due to lamb, stops two ewes lambing next to each other and mixing lambs up.

get as big a shed as planning will let you have, you will always fill it up

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Housing sheep
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2013, 12:00:11 am »
Most of us don't pen the ewes individually until they have lambed.   When your flock is lambing you need to be checking regularly and so should be able to avoid mix-ups for the most part.  I agree they will still happen but there are a number of reasons to prefer to not pen the ewes until they have lambed.

Off the top of my head, some of the reasons on my list include:
  • even with other sheep nearby, a ewe penned on her own is unhappy; she's less unhappy once she has her lambs for company
  • it's a lot more work and expense to cater to the needs of sheep penned individually, and the benefits aren't, IMO, there to warrant it
  • a lambing ewe needs space to turn around, paw the ground, stretch in every direction, etc.  She also needs sufficient room to avoid any already-born lambs as she produces numbers 2 and perhaps 3.  I've had a triplet squashed more than once, and that's when they're penned after they've all got up on their feet and suckled, never mind penning them before they're all born.
  • A pen big enough for a ewe to lamb in comfortably and safely is actually overlarge for what is needed once the lambs are born.
  • A heck of a lot of fluid, gore and other stuff is produced by a lambing ewe.  if she lambs in the pen, you will need to muck it out completely pretty much straight away, or the lambs will be on wet bedding, plus there will be a much greater risk of disease.  If she lambs in the main pen, you can move her and her lamb(s) into a clean dry pen once she's licked them, and the pen stays warm and dry for them.
  • If you need to assist her once she starts lambing, you will be very hampered if she's already penned, unless the pen is very large, in which case it will be overlarge for a mothering-up pen.
  • It's a challenge to provide fresh drinking water to a ewe in an individual pen without creating an opportunity for her to drown a lamb as she drops it ::); much easier to have ewe head-height water troughs in the main pen, which provides fresh water at all times to all ewes and provides no opportunities for drowning lambs ;)
I'm sure others can think of other reasons too.

Depending on where you are and your climate, door siting may need to be more about prevailing wind than anything else.  Up here east winds are evilly cold, but rare; the prevailing wind is a relatively warmer westerly or south-westerly.  Some farms have their doors to the south, so that you get a glancing blow of fresh air but not a gale blown in, and are protected from the chill of any northerlies or easterlies.  Some farms have their doors to the east, with excellent windproofing doors to the east and good flaps and so on to the south, so that ventilation can still be provided if there is an easterly and everything on that side is battened down against it. 

If it is windy where you are, or could be at lambing time, then think about how your doors will function in a gale - great big tin doors may be too heavy to handle when a 50mph or heftier gale is behind them.  If you can have either a door-within-a-door or a separate 'personnel' door, that should mean you can always get in and out even when the main door cannot be opened.

Ventilation is key and much more important than natural light.  Generally, except in the worst weather, you will want the door(s) to be open for ventilation - and light - most of the time.  So think about gating (of the rail type)  or hurdling across the gap(s) for everyday use, with the doors themselves only closed when needed.

Having worked with doors in the end and doors midway along the long side, if either is as suitable as regards prevailing winds, etc, then my personal experience is that you can use the space much more flexibly with the door midway along the long side.  For instance, you can use one half for sheep and the other for equipment, and still get at your equipment without having to move the sheep to one side or to maintain a 'waste of space' corridor. You can move the sheep from one side to the other if you need to get at something that's beyond the sheep.  You can have sheep penned on both sides - useful if you think you may have two lambers tonight  ;).

Unless there's a reason not to, put panels in the roof that let light in from above.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Bramblecot

  • Joined Jul 2008
Re: Housing sheep
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2013, 07:01:01 pm »
Great post SITN, lots of useful tips, thank you :thumbsup:
Even with a vey small flock we find it easier to have a lambing area and only pen the ewes once they have lambed.
Build as large as you can afford/get away with/think you need - it looks so much better than add-ons.  You will use the space ;) ;)
It may not sound elegant but...we have built a 'wall' of pallets across the barn, with the sheep on one side (mine) and all the tools, machinery etc safely on the other (his).  There is a gate at each end.  As the flock grows :innocent: , the 'wall' gets slowly moved further down the barn ;D :sheep: ;D :sheep:

gulli

  • Joined Jul 2012
Re: Housing sheep
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2013, 01:39:41 pm »
Off the top of my head, some of the reasons on my list include:
  • even with other sheep nearby, a ewe penned on her own is unhappy; she's less unhappy once she has her lambs for company
  • it's a lot more work and expense to cater to the needs of sheep penned individually, and the benefits aren't, IMO, there to warrant it
  • a lambing ewe needs space to turn around, paw the ground, stretch in every direction, etc.  She also needs sufficient room to avoid any already-born lambs as she produces numbers 2 and perhaps 3.  I've had a triplet squashed more than once, and that's when they're penned after they've all got up on their feet and suckled, never mind penning them before they're all born.
  • A pen big enough for a ewe to lamb in comfortably and safely is actually overlarge for what is needed once the lambs are born.
  • A heck of a lot of fluid, gore and other stuff is produced by a lambing ewe.  if she lambs in the pen, you will need to muck it out completely pretty much straight away, or the lambs will be on wet bedding, plus there will be a much greater risk of disease.  If she lambs in the main pen, you can move her and her lamb(s) into a clean dry pen once she's licked them, and the pen stays warm and dry for them.
  • If you need to assist her once she starts lambing, you will be very hampered if she's already penned, unless the pen is very large, in which case it will be overlarge for a mothering-up pen.
  • It's a challenge to provide fresh drinking water to a ewe in an individual pen without creating an opportunity for her to drown a lamb as she drops it ::); much easier to have ewe head-height water troughs in the main pen, which provides fresh water at all times to all ewes and provides no opportunities for drowning lambs ;)
sheep will isolate themselves from the flock to lamb, in a pen full of sheep this is difficult and leads to more stress for the ewe.
Its a lot easier to control and monitor feed intake and you therefore have a better idea of when lambing is imminent, i do agree that it may be more work, but its easier to monitor the ewes on their own.
sheep lie on their lambs on purpose, not by accident, pen size has little to do with it
what would you describe as overlarge? how do you think sheep that lamb outdoors manage to keep their lambs?
Or you could provide them with fresh, clean bedding once they have lambed and its a lot less stressful on mother and lambs to leave them alone once they have lambed instead of chasing them round a pen full of other sheep to put them in an individual pen, which can lead to its own problems, especially with young ewes
its easier to catch her in a small pen. the majority of mine don't need help though
why not have head height water troughs in individual pens? use a feed trough that runs through a few of them, fill when needed...

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Housing sheep
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2013, 06:19:03 pm »

All of which just goes to show that if you ask 4 farmers how to do something, you'll get 5 different answers!   ;)

sheep will isolate themselves from the flock to lamb
Agreed.  But she only isolates herself when she is going to lamb, not usually several days before.  What she does do, and will do indoors too, if she is allowed, is select her spot.  They do this in the communal pen too - I do agree that it's more natural for her to be able to get away from the other sheep to lamb, but they do choose a spot and start preparing it, scratching at it and so on, some time before they start to lamb.

Its a lot easier to control and monitor feed intake and you therefore have a better idea of when lambing is imminent
I find it pretty easy in an open pen - a ewe who is imminently planning on lambing may well hang back from the trough, enabling you to mark her and keep a special eye on her thereafter.  However, I have many a time seen mules of mine troughing away with the rest of them, with water bags and even noses and toes sticking out their backsides! :D   So you don't always get that loss of appetite to alert you that they are thinking about lambing.  One thing I do like about feeding them all together at a trough is you can go along and look at backsides and udders while they're stood still - also very helpful in determining who may lamb later.

One thing that has occurred to me is that I make the assumption that anyone lambing sheep indoors is available and planning to do two-hourly - or at the very least four-hourly - checks throughout the day, and night too if necessary.  If your setup is such that you have to leave the sheep alone for longer periods, then I can see that you may find benefits in having them penned individually before they lamb as you would not be on hand to prevent some of the problems occurring that would do so in a communal area if the sheep were left alone for long periods while lambing.

I have to say it would not sit well with me to leave lambing ewes unattended indoors for long periods, however they were penned, but I realise that's easy for me to say as we are full-time farmers, and perhaps it's unrealistic of me to think that all sheepkeepers, on whatever scale, can and should provide the same level of attendance at lambing time. :thinking:

sheep lie on their lambs on purpose, not by accident, pen size has little to do with it
I couldn't disagree more, but that's my personal experience and clearly yours differs.

what would you describe as overlarge? how do you think sheep that lamb outdoors manage to keep their lambs?
That's the thing - we've taken them out of their natural environment and put them in one which is more or less completely unnatural to them.  They do not behave the same indoors as they would out in the field.  If we always had good weather at lambing, I'd leave all sheep to lamb outdoors, with the possible exception of twin-bearing first-timers.  Outdoors, a ewe who is unhappy about a lamb's questing little mouth around her underparts can simply move away.  Instinct and smell bring her back soon enough, the lamb tries again... if the weather is kind, lambie will usually get fed eventually.  Unfortunately, if the weather is not kind, lambie could founder and die before mum gets used to the idea.  So we bring them indoors.  In my experience, the incarceration and stresses it brings tend to make ewes even more disinclined to let their lambs suckle, especially first-time mums.   ::)  If you pen her in an individual pen for lambing, and aren't there when lambie starts trying to suckle, when she's already stressed by the situation - you may arrive to find a dead lamb, killed by its own mother, stressed off her head and battering it.  If she lambs in the communal area, she has the option of moving away from the lamb and coming back, as she would outdoors.  She's less likely to kill the lamb.  I do agree that there are downsides to this situation - another motherly ewe may pinch the newborn lamb who is crying; by the time you get there its natural mother has produced another lamb and is mothering it, so you think you've had two ewes lamb; later on motherly ewe has her own lambs and then goes off the one she pinched... etc etc.   But if the space and stocking density are right, the checks are frequent and the staff experienced, on the whole, my preference, and I am pretty sure general practise, is to lamb in the communal area and pen once licking and some bonding has occurred.

As to the optimum size for a 'mothering up' pen, which is what most of us use a lambing pen for, my preference is for an oblong pen in which the short dimension is about the length of the ewe and the longer dimension gives room for the lambs to get out of her way, so 18"-24" longer than the short side.  If I have a ewe who is being aggressive to her lambs, I like to have a shelf or creep area the lambs can get into to get out of her way and be safe from battering.  I also prefer a longer pen for triplets, as my experience is that a large ewe in a small pen with triplets is quite likely to flatten one, and is not likely to flatten one at all if she has enough space.

The reason I like the pen that size and shape is (a) I can catch a ewe very readily in that size of pen, and can tip her up if I need to without squishing the lambs; (b) it's large enough for the lambs to get to safety but small enough that if the ewe is a bit iffy about letting them suckle, they can catch a few sucks here and there as she feeds, drinks, etc.  Even if she twizzles away from them, they get pretty adept at jumping back on as soon as she stops spinning around.  In a larger pen, it's very much harder for the lambs to get plugged in, so they are far more reliant on you attending and restraining the ewe in order to get a drink.  In my experience, more ewes settle to their lambs without much human intervention (other than penning them) in a smaller pen than do in a larger one.  In the latter case, I expect to have to catch the ewe three or four times to let the lamb suckle, whereas in the correct size of pen I may only need to show the lamb where the teat is and the lamb does the rest.  In my opinion, the more human intervention there is, the more the ewe dislikes the lamb feeding, so it takes longer and is harder on us, the ewe and the lambs.  I am perfectly happy to be told that it's different in different systems and with different breeds, but my experience with hill and hill-derived commercial sheep is as described.

its a lot less stressful on mother and lambs to leave them alone once they have lambed instead of chasing them round a pen full of other sheep to put them in an individual pen, which can lead to its own problems, especially with young ewes
Again, I can only describe my own experiences over 7 years now of lambing around 3000 sheep overall, of which perhaps 500+ lambed indoors, but my experience is that it's pretty easy 98% or more of the time to get the ewe to follow the lambs to the lambing pen, provided you leave her alone to lick them and start to bond before you start moving her.  I think I can probably count the number of times I've had to chase a lambed ewe around the lambing pen to get her penned up with her lambs on the fingers of one hand.  Okay, maybe I might need the other hand but I certainly don't need to take my shoes off! :D   (Mind, I am also pretty cunning now at manipulating sheep into being where I want them. ;))

But yes, of course it would be nice to not have to move the ewe and lambs at all.  I can see that your experience with your sheep is that it is better to pen them individually before they lamb, and that's fine for you.  However, I think that this approach is not the norm, and I think there are a number of reasons for that, of which I have enumerated some.  novicesmallholder Mark will have to make his own  decision about what system he is likely to use and therefore what size and shape of shed and lambing area he needs to plan.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

gulli

  • Joined Jul 2012
Re: Housing sheep
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2013, 06:43:00 pm »


Agreed.  But she only isolates herself when she is going to lamb, not usually several days before.  What she does do, and will do indoors too, if she is allowed, is select her spot.  They do this in the communal pen too - I do agree that it's more natural for her to be able to get away from the other sheep to lamb, but they do choose a spot and start preparing it, scratching at it and so on, some time before they start to lamb.



But yes, of course it would be nice to not have to move the ewe and lambs at all.  I can see that your experience with your sheep is that it is better to pen them individually before they lamb, and that's fine for you.  However, I think that this approach is not the norm, and I think there are a number of reasons for that, of which I have enumerated some.  novicesmallholder Mark will have to make his own  decision about what system he is likely to use and therefore what size and shape of shed and lambing area he needs to plan.
I tend to do it at most a couple of days before, sometimes even a couple hours before.

to be honest I was just giving another option, i've done it all ways and when you have 5 ewes lamb next to each other in a large pen and three of them are convinced they gave birth to the same lamb and don't want their own its a bloody nightmare. and just creating extra work for yourself. but then as you keep mules i guess you are used to that ;)

novicesmallholder

  • Joined Oct 2009
  • Worcestershire
Re: Housing sheep
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2013, 11:09:31 pm »
SITN,
 
agree with you. The cost of purchasing individual drinking buckets - head height so lambs don't drown, the hurdles/materials for lots of individual pens is very prohibitive. We lambed 10 ewes this year and kept them together until they lambed, then moved them into individual pens after they lambed for a few days, then let them out. They mothers and lambs came back in at night for a few weeks, we had 10 ewes and their 13 lambs in 2 x 12'x12' shelters. It worked really well.
We are looking to lamb 18 this year and upto 50 over the next 2/3 years- hence the need for a barn.
Ii've not seen any of my ewes trying to kill their own on purpose - maybe me or another ewes who has strayed in by accident.
We just want somewhere to keep them in in our very unpredictable weather, and if we could let them all lamb outside we would - the only one who lambed outside (the last one) has the biggest lamb and thrived from the onset.
Thanks for your replies - just need to deal with planning now....arggggghhhh.
 
Mark

 

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