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Clean livestock - some tips for sheep producers

With winter onset and wet ground conditions, it is more challenging to prevent soiling of sheep fleeces and meet requirements of presenting clean dry sheep for slaughter. Michael Gottstein, Head of Sheep KT Teagasc, shares tips to help producers market sheep to comply with the clean livestock policy

The following are some tips to help producers to market sheep that will comply with clean livestock policy guidelines.

  • Implement an effective parasite control programme to reduce scouring from internal parasites such as stomach worms, coccidia and liver fluke.
  • At grass

    • Move finishing lambs to clean pasture when conditions become muddy
    • Move feeders regularly to avoid poaching and muddy areas around feeders
    • Raise drinking troughs and provide a hardcore area around drinkers to keep these areas mud free.
    • Avoid routine free access mineral supplements and treat animals for specific mineral and vitamin deficiencies.
  • Indoors

    • Use only well ventilated sheep housing for finishing sheep
    • In straw bedded sheds use adequate straw and replenish regularly
    • In slatted sheds ensure that slats do not get blocked and that there is no build-up of faeces.
    • Do not overstock pens
    • Allow adequate space at feeding troughs
  • Outdoors on roots / forage crops

    • Crutch / Dag / belly clip lambs before turning them onto crops (at least four weeks pre slaughter)
    • Allow sheep to adjust to the new diet by restricting access and providing a grass runback or free access hay
    • If supplementing with concentrates or hay, move feeding points regularly so as to avoid poaching /muddy areas
    • Ensure that sheep always have a dry lying area. On free draining soils the crop itself may provide this. However on heavier soils or during wet weather a grass runback or straw bedded area should be provided.
  • Finishing Diets

    • Avoid sudden changes to prevent dietary upsets and scouring.
    • Carefully manage the build-up to high levels of concentrates.
    • Avoid feeding low dry matter diets (low DM silage, beet etc.)
    • Feed rations that are properly balanced for fibre, energy and protein
    • Avoid feeding excess salt in finishing diets as this increases water intake and urine production. The use of Ammonium Chloride at ½% of the finishing diet will protect against urinary calculi.
    • If feeding high starch diets avoid finely ground ingredients – feed a percentage of the cereal as whole or cracked.
  • Pre-Sale Management

    • Avoid unnecessary mixing of groups of sheep pre-sale
    • Crutch/dag dirty lambs prior to transport
    • House on straw bedding or clean slats and withdraw feed from sheep for minimum 8 hours pre slaughter. Do not restrict water where housing period is longer than 8 hours.
    • Try to have sheep dry
  • Transport

    • Use well ventilated and roofed transport vehicles
    • Ensure transport vehicle is clean, dry and has absorbent materials on the floor.
    • Use partitions/ dividers to confine animals
    • Where decks are being used ensure that faeces / urine from the higher decks does not soil sheep on the lower decks.

For more information read the Teagasc Leaflets:

Clean Livestock Policy for Sheep: A Guide for Sheep Producers Download Publication (PDF) 

Clean Livestock Policy for Sheep: A Guide for Sheep Transport Download Publication (PDF)