With 150 ewes lambing down from 1 February on, Patrick Fahy from Clough, Tuam, Co Galway, wanted to streamline management as much as possible during the busy lambing period. For sheep farmers more so than other enterprises, having poor facilities, especially when it comes to lambing, can greatly increase the potential workload required. “When you are a one-man operation, you really have to try to make things as easy for yourself as possible,” said Patrick. “I did the shed in such a way that all of the penning can come up too if needs be down the line if the shed was to be used for anything else.”
He continued: “The shed is up two years now and has been through one lambing. It worked really well and was a great help, especially with a difficult spring.”
While many farmers have moved away from early lamb production over the past few years, it is a system that suits Patrick.
“There are challenges with early lambing but at least the early man has some choice. You are very restricted when it comes to selling late lambs.
“I would start selling lambs at the beginning of May, with all lambs gone before mid-June. This frees up grass a lot for the cattle on the farm. I would generally only keep each ewe for four crops of lambs and then sell them off. I find that they are better able to rear their lambs and there are a lot less health issues with them.”
Due to selling ewes off at a younger age, Patrick will keep a large proportion of ewe lambs every year for replacements.
The shed is a portal frame structure. It is six bays long, measuring 28.8m. Five of the bays are dedicated to large group pens while one bay is made up of individual lambing pens. From the stanchion to the back wall is 12m. Pens themselves are approximately 4.1m wide, with the walkthroughs between the pens 0.7m wide. Each pen has an area of 49m2. All penning is bolted to the ground.
As sheep sheds will generally only be used for a small portion of the year, it is a good idea to have it so that penning can be completely removed to be used for other purposes if desired, such as storing straw.
For ewes on a straw bed, the minimum recommended area is 1.1m2 to 1.4m2/ewe depending on body size. This would mean each of these pens, in theory, could hold approximately 37 medium-sized ewes. The recommended floor space per ewe, depending on whether they are shorn or unshorn, can be seen in Tables 1 and 2.
In reality, Patrick stocks them lower than this.
“You could probably have 32 to 34 ewes in each pen but I would go for about 28 just to have that bit more extra comfort,” he said. This would give ewes space of approximately 1.7m2 each.
Four out of the five large pens can be fed on all three sides with a total of 28.1m of feed face. Silage or hay will generally be fed on two sides of the pen, with meal fed along one of the long sides. This would mean a feed face for feeding meal of 12m for the 28 ewes, or 0.43m/ewe.
The feed rail is adjustable. There are access points to all pens along the front feed barrier. The gates are fitted with a spring-loaded latch.
Pictures four and five
The decision was made to go with wider walkthrough passageways of 0.7m so that a wheelbarrow could fit down them. Patrick has recently decided to retrofit troughs in some of these passageways to ensure no meal was wasted.
“I could probably still mange without the troughs but I think it will make it easier for ewes to reach the meal and mean there is no waste,” Patrick said.
Inlet ventilation is provided by vented sheeting running the full length of the building while an opening along the roof with a ridge cap provides outlet ventilation. The shed stands at 4.2m to the eaves while it rises to 5.5m at the apex.
There are a total of 18 individual lambing pens in the shed and 16 of these are split either side of a passageway. The other two are located in another corner of the shed. Individual pens are 1.5m wide and 1.8m deep, with a 1.2m passageway between the two rows of pens.
Eight of the pens have direct access to a feed barrier. Lambs and ewes would only spend one day in the individual pens before they move to group pens in another shed, according to Patrick.
“I would always try and get lambs and ewes out to fields after about 10 to 12 days, depending on the weather,” Patrick said.
“I would close up fields early in the back end to have enough grass to let them out to in the spring. I find they are much healthier if I can get them out.”
All penning for the shed was supplied by Cormac Equipment. “One thing about the pens is that there are individual joiners for each of the gates which just makes opening and closing pens a simpler job. It also gives the pens extra strength,” according to Bernie Mangan of Cormac Equipment.
“When it comes to sheep sheds, you would get a lot more farmers retrofitting penning into a shed, unlike cattle sheds. Because of this, we will generally custom-make barriers as every shed can be different. We have seen a good lot of sheds being converted over the past year with barriers fitted.”
Ivan Morris fitted the sheep penning, supplied by Cormac. Dunleavy Engineering completed the concrete work and supplied and erected the shed. Eugene Higgins from Belclare completed the electrical work for the shed.
The shed went up without any grant aid. If a sheep shed was to be put up through TAMS (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme) then costing would be based on a reference cost of €148.80/m2 for a solid floor sheep house with penning. This cost covers the entire structure and all required fittings including the concrete floor, penning, feed passages, the roof and electrics, etc. If a shed such as the one above were to be built through TAMS it would have a reference cost of approximately €51,000 excluding VAT.
(L-R) Eric Campbell Cormac Equipment, Ivan Morris, Patrick Fahy and Bernie Mangan Cormac Equipment.
With straw availability becoming an issue in recent times, many farmers will try to keep ewes out of sheds for as long as they can. However, with land getting considerable rain over the past month, many farmers may have to re-evaluate their plans and house earlier than intended. Feeding different diets can have a big impact on the amount of bedding required, as seen in Table 3. Having longer pens with fewer divisions between them, as seen in this example, will allow round bales to be rolled out quickly and easily.