“If I had all the money in the world I would put in plastic slats over the use of straw bedding, but straw bedded sheds, if maintained, are just as good when it comes to mastitis control.”

This is what Ryan Duffy of Hipra, told attendees at the recent Irish Grassland Association (IGA) sheep conference and farm walk.

Ryan was answering a question from the audience – “Is there any difference between ewes on straw bedding or ewes on plastic slats for getting mastitis?”

Answering, Ryan said: “If we were having this conversation about cattle, staphylococcus aureus love straw and sawdust and it is a massive issue [mastitis]; however, in sheep it’s not so much of an issue.

“Particularly if we have them dried off right and get the nutrition right. And by nutrition, I mean the energy balance and the body condition score, because if we have the ewe too fat or too thin, she is going to have a negative energy balance and that’s going to cause another issue whenever she lambs down,” he added.

“I believe in promoting plastic slats. I have plastic slats at home now because we had issues with mastitis.

“Between vaccination, nutrition and getting the plastic slats, all three factors combined seem to be working well and we don’t have any issues anymore.

“So if I had to choose between the two, I’d be going for plastic slats. However, at the end of the day, if you have a well managed straw bedded shed, and it’s being cleaned and disinfected regularly and then liming on top of the straw, you’ll get the same results {as the plastic slats].

“It just comes down to the management of it. As I said before, the solution is dilution, so if you have mastitis issues being picked up in the dry period, it’s all about disinfection or disinfection and good nutrition.

“At the end of the day, if I had all the money in the world I’d put in plastic slats but being realistic, straw bedding is just as good if it’s maintained,” he stated.