Farm Ireland

Sunday 15 July 2018

How clean should your sheep be when taking them to the factory?

Stock image. Photo Brian Farrell
Stock image. Photo Brian Farrell
FarmIreland Team

FarmIreland Team

The roll out of the Clean Livestock Policy for Sheep by processors means farmers must now present sheep to the factory that are clean or they will be penalised.

Teagasc has produced a guide to the new standards, which has three categories - from satisfactory; acceptable to unacceptable.

Category A: Satisfactory

According to Teagasc, these are sheep with a clean dry fleece that can be slaughtered without an unacceptable risk of contaminating the meat during the slaughter process, by using the standard hygienic dressing procedures routinely employed by the plant. The Teagasc pictures below show how clean such sheep are.

clean sheep teagasc.PNG


Category B: Acceptable

According to Teagasc, these are sheep with moderate soiling of fleece that can only be slaughtered, without an unacceptable risk of contamination of the meat during the slaughter process, by putting in place additional interventions including extra defined dressing controls.

The Teagasc pictures below show how clean these sheep are.

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b clean sheep teagasc.PNG

Category C: Unacceptable

These are sheep with heavily contaminated fleece unfit for slaughter. These sheep must not be presented for ante-mortem in this condition and it is the responsibility of the Food Business Operator to take the required remedial action. The Teagasc pictures below show the level of contaminated fleece on these sheep that are unacceptable.

c clean sheep teagasc.PNG

How to ensure your sheep are clean enough for factories

Tail dock lambs: If necessary tail dock lambs in the first 7 days of life.

Internal Parasites: Implement a control programme to reduce scouring (parasites such as stomach worms, coccidia and liver fluke).

At grass

  • Move finishing lambs to clean pasture when conditions become muddy;
  • Avoid use of excess nitrogen fertiliser or very lush grass during finishing period, to reduce scouring;
  • Move feeders regularly to avoid poaching;
  • Raise drinking troughs, and provide hardcore area around drinkers to keep areas mud-free;
  • Avoid routine free access to mineral supplements, instead treat animals for specific mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

Outdoors on roots / forage crops

  • Crutch / dag lambs before turning onto crops;
  • Allow sheep to adjust to the new diet by restricting access and providing grass runback or free-access hay;
  • If supplementing with concentrates or hay, move feeding points regularly, to avoid poaching;
  • Ensure sheep have a dry lying area. On free-draining soils, the crop itself may provide this. On heavy soils, or during wet weather, a grass runback or straw-bedded area should be provided.


  • Use well-ventilated sheep housing;
  • In straw- bedded sheds, use adequate straw and replenish regularly;
  • In slatted sheds, ensure slats do not get blocked;
  • Do not overstock pens;
  • Allow adequate space at feeding troughs.

Finishing Diets

  • Avoid sudden changes, to prevent dietary upsets and scouring;
  • Increase levels of concentrates slowly;
  • Avoid feeding low dry matter diets (low DM silage, beet etc.);
  • Use feed rations properly balanced for fibre, energy and protein;
  • Avoid feeding excess salt as this increases water intake and urine production;
  • Use Ammonium Chloride at 0.5% of the finishing diet to protect against urinary calculi;
  • If feeding high-starch diets avoid finely ground ingredients - feed a percentage of the cereal in whole or cracked form.

Pre-Sale Management

  • Avoid unnecessary mixing of groups;
  • Crutch/dag dirty lambs before transport;
  • House on straw bedding or clean slats;
  • Withdraw feed for minimum 8, maximum 12 hours before slaughter. Liaise with processor regarding delivery times;
  • Have clean drinking water available at all times.


  • Poor transport conditions may result in animals becoming contaminated and failing to achieve required cleanliness specification;
  • Vehicles should be roofed (where possible) and well ventilated;
  • Ensure vehicle is clean, dry and disinfected before loading;
  • Use partitions/ dividers to confine and segregate animals;
  • Use absorbent materials on the floor where needed;
  • Where decks are in use, ensure faeces / urine from higher decks does not soil sheep on lower decks.

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