How to get ventilation and space requirements right in your shed

Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

Correcting ventilation and space – both feeding and floor space – in your sheep shed this is critical for performance, according to Michael Gottstein, Head of Sheep in Teagasc.

He said these are critical areas to get right when housing sheep to avoid drafts, disease and underfed ewes, as well as other problems that will affect your enterprise this year, he says.

For ventilation, farmers should aim to have a good airflow into the shed and a mechanism for the warm damp air to escape in the roof area, he advised.

He also says farmers should avoid generating drafts, as this could lead to poor health in housed animals.

If the shed feels and warm and damp when farmers walk in, this is a sure sign there isn’t enough ventilation and it needs to be addressed, he says. Poor ventilation results in disease, wet sheep and more bedding being required, according to Michael.

In relation to feed and floor space, he says the sheep should have enough space to lie comfortably and also feed without trouble.

Lying and trough space requirements for sheep are governed by bodyweight and the amount of wool the sheep have, according to Michael, found in Tables 1 and 2 below.

He says where pregnant ewes do not have enough trough space this can result in some ewes being underfed and more sinister effects, which can predispose ewes to prolapse.

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Table 1: Feeding space requirements, according to the Department of Agriculture

Type of eweMeal feeding mmRoughage (hay rack)Easy feed silage
Large (90kg600200200
Small (50kg)400175175


Table 2: Floor space

Type of eweSlats m2Bedded m2
Large (bodyweight 90kg). 1.21.4
Medium (bodyweight 70kg)1.11.2
Small (bodyweight 50kg)1.01.1


Group Pens

According to Teagasc Business and Technology Advisor Edward Egan, some sheep sheds have group pens that are under-stocked due to limited meal trough space.

He said if deep pens are to be stocked to their full potential, then walk through troughs or feeding on two or more sides of the pen may be needed.

He also said that some sheds are under-stocked because meal feeding space is halved by having a walled side on the external boundary. This limits meal feeding to the front of the pen, he explained.

This leads to under stocked pens or narrow pens, small group sizes and more shed space been given over passage ways.

He also said having small group sizes makes work as more groups have to be handled. It also reduces the number of ewes that can be housed in a shed as more space is given over to extra passageways.

Small group sizes can also increase the cost of housing as extra dividing gates, exit gates, water troughs and passageways are needed, he explained.

Group sizes up to 60-80 ewes are fine where sheep are evenly matched and have correct floor, meal and fodder trough space, according to the Advisor. 

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