The housing of ewes on many farms has started, as tightening grass supplies and poor underfoot conditions call a halt to the 2020 grazing season.

Farmers lambing early will have their ewes housed for a few weeks now, but for farmers starting to or thinking about housing their mid-season lambing ewes should keep a couple of things in mind.

Two critical points to keep in mind are lying and feed space. From the time a ewe is housed and by the time she lambs down, she will have gained considerable weight and size, which needs to be taken into account when penning ewes for the housing period.

For example, a twin or triplet-bearing ewe will require more space in late-pregnancy.

The only way to know how to split up your flock correctly come housing time is by scanning them. Scanning ewes will allow farmers to pen single, twin and triplet-bearing ewes together and it will also make feeding management much easier and straightforward to do.

Also Read: Take advantage of the benefits scanning ewes offers

So it is important that farmers provide ewes with adequate floor and feed space, in order to optimise performance and reduce lamb mortality rates.

A task farmers should carry out is measuring their pens in order to see if they are stocking their pens correctly or not.

Feed Space

It is important to provide ewes with adequate feed space throughout the housing period. An option for farmers if their sheds are at full capacity is to have a walk-through feeding passageway at either side of the pen. This allows farmers to feed their ewes from three sides of the pen.

Extra space needs to be allocated to ewes when they are fed concentrates compared to if they are being fed roughage – such as hay or silage.

Particular attention should be paid to corners of the pen that are not accessible for ewes to gain access to concentrates.

According to Teagasc, the recommended feed space when offering concentrates to a ewe weighing between 70kg and 90kg is between 500mm and 600mm.

Smaller ewes weighing 50kg require a feed space of 400mm when being fed concentrates.

Moreover, ewes should have access to fresh clean water at all times.

Lying space

It is important to provide ewes with plenty of space in order to prevent overcrowding, which can result in reduced performance.

Ewes which have inadequate floor space are at risk of becoming stressed and this could affect the growth of their offspring and result in lamb losses.

Also Read: Winter shearing ewes: The benefits

If floor space is tight it is important to have good airflow circulating throughout the shed to prevent ewes from becoming too warm.

This table (below) outlines the minimum floor space ewes of different weight categories require.