With grass supplies running low and increasingly lower energy in available grass, many mid-season flocks will look towards scanning and housing ewes. Some key things to remember when housing sheep are listed below.

Time of housing

Grass and forage supplies in front of ewes should be assessed regularly, with ewe body condition also checked.

Not only is the dry matter of grasses and forage crops low in wet weather conditions, but ewes will now see a reduced rumen capacity begin to kick in as the growing foetus begins to overtake the internal space inside ewes.

This is especially prevalent in ewes carrying multiple lambs.

Ewes should be housed when fleeces are dry. A wet fleece can take up to one week to dry when sheep are housed, with the rising moisture from fleeces, leading to higher humidity and possible respiratory problems as a result.

Feed space

Ensuring ewes have enough feed space to allow them to all eat comfortably at the same time is critical.

Inadequate feed space can lead to bullying and reduced intakes, resulting in reduced body condition score (BCS) and the risk of twin lamb disease.

The recommended feeding space is listed in Table 1. It is often feeding, rather than lying space that limits pen capacity in sheds.

Walk through troughs are popular, and can greatly increase feed space when they are fitted to one or both sides of a pen divide.

When calculating feed space using walk through troughs, 600mm should be subtracted as a ewe will blank off a corner of feed space. Pen capacity may be reduced as ewes become wider as they approach lambing.

Ewes should be able to be fed without having to enter the pen, as there is a danger of being knocked over by ewes. The layout should be set up in a way that 100 ewes can be fed with forage and concentrates in approximately 15 minutes.

Where sheep are bedded, the area in front of feed barriers is particularly prone to becoming wet, leading to feet issues. Ensure this receives ample, dry, absorbent bedding.

Lying space

Adequate lying space is generally a non-issue with sheep sheds, as feed space is often the limiting factor. What is generally a greater issue in slatted accommodation is low stocking rates.

A lower stocking rate in a slatted pen can lead to an increased build up of dung with inadequate movement preventing dung being pushed through slat grooves.

Ewes on bedded accommodation will require slightly more lying space.


As with all livestock sheds, ventilation is key to reducing airborne diseases within the housed flock. An adequate outlet to remove stale air and an inlet twice the volume of the outlet to allow cool, clean air in to the shed should be in place.

Yorkshire or space boarding, vented sheeting, windbreaker panels or gaps left below eaves are all means of increasing air inlet space.


Pregnant ewes on high dry matter or high concentrate diets can drink in excess of six litres of water per day.

Troughs need to be cleaned out frequently, as ewes are guilty of spoiling water through dunging and discharging mouthfuls of concentrates in to troughs. Troughs should be 600mm above the ground.

Overfilling troughs or leaking fittings should be repaired or replaced to avoid spoiling of bedding.

Winter shearing

Although there is a financial cost, winter shearing will increase the pen capacity in a shed by approximately 15%. It is also a useful management tool to assess BCS by eye, as well as improving hygiene around the udder at lambing time.