Summer Shade & Shelter Guidelines for Sheep

Published by Elizabeth Horsfall on October 30, 2018

Healthy sheep can tolerate a wide range of temperatures if they are acclimatised and have adequate feed and water. However the provision of shade & shelter for your sheep allows them to cope better with varying climatic extremes that can occur throughout the year therefore minimising the impact of these weather extremes & suffering or possible death of your sheep. The implementation of livestock shade sails & shelters also improves the welfare of your sheep & increases their productivity as animals without shelter need to put more energy into normal functioning and less into production.

In free-range conditions stress particularly impacts the welfare of new born lambs, pregnant ewes & recently shorn sheep. Studies have shown that the provision of shelter can substantially reduce lamb mortality. Heat stress reduces productivity & can compromise the immune system of livestock & cause lower birth weights. Sheep with a history of respiratory disease are also at risk of heat stress due to a decreased ability to dissipate heat through panting.

Sheep cool themselves primarily by increasing their respiration rate, and can also lose a small amount of heat through sweating. Heat stress and exhaustion should not occur if sheep are able to find shade and rest during the hottest part of the day.

FEED - The appetite of livestock is reduced during extreme heat conditions and can result in weight losses. Provision of quality, highly palatable feed during periods of hot weather can assist in the heat load of the sheep and help maintain normal feed intakes. Heat stressed sheep are more vulnerable to disease, so any new feed should be gradually introduced.

WATER - The importance of clean fresh water during periods of extreme heat should not be underestimated!! During extended periods of high temperatures it is necessary to provide sheep with plenty of fresh cool water. Adult sheep require an average of 2L – 6L of water a day, and up to 80% more on days over 35ºC. Placement of troughs should be carefully considered to prevent animals crowding between fences and the trough.

SHELTER - The best type of shelter during extreme heat will protect animals from the sun and will also allow for the cooling effect of wind flow. Wind flow is important for keeping sheep cool and should be considered when deciding the location & type of shelter required. The design and construction of the Shade Sails & Waterproof Shelters should minimise exposure to extremes of cold and hot weather, and reduce exposure to high mid-summer solar radiation.

It is important that sufficient shelter is available for all animals at the same time to prevent sheep crowding and smothering. It is preferable that all animals are able to lie down as this helps them cool themselves. The current recommendation for shade allowance for outdoor feeding systems is 0.4m²per lamb.

Contact the team at Polytex Tarpaulins for assistance or download our free livestock shade structures guide.

Download our Free Livestock Shelter Guide

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