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Clean Livestock policy - Sheep


Presenting lambs clean at the abattoir becomes more challenging as the year progresses particularly for those finishing outdoors as weather conditions deteriorate. Ciaran Lynch, Teagasc Sheep Specialist discusses the Clean Livestock Policy for sheep

Even for those finishing indoors it can prove problematic if steps aren’t taken to address this.

So what is the issue? Sheep soiled fleeces pose a risk to food safety, this risk increases when these fleeces are wet. Sheep Producers supply animals for slaughter for human consumption. Therefore, as food producers they have an important role to play in presenting clean sheep for slaughter.

Within the Clean Livestock Policy sheep categorise sheep as follows: A: Satisfactory; B: Acceptable; or C: Unacceptable.

Category A: Satisfactory

Sheep with a clean dry fleece that can be slaughtered without an unacceptable risk of contaminating the meat during the slaughter process, by using the standard hygienic dressing procedures routinely employed by the plant.

Category B: Acceptable

Sheep with moderate soiling of fleece that can only be slaughtered, without an unacceptable risk of contamination of the meat during the slaughter process, by putting in place additional interventions including extra defined dressing controls

Category C: Unacceptable

Sheep with heavily contaminated fleece unfit for slaughter. These sheep must not be presented for ante-mortem in this condition and it is the responsibility of the Food Business Operator to take the required remedial action.

A number of proactive steps can be taken to keep lambs cleaner as the season progresses

Finishing management:

Concentrate supplementation: Ensure a suitable concentrate ration properly balanced for fibre, energy and protein is used.  Avoid feeding rations containing excess salt as this will increases water intake and in turn urine production, instead ensure the ration contains Ammonium Chloride at 0.5% of the finishing diet to protect against urinary calculi. Avoid sudden dietary changes as it may cause dietary upsets and scouring. Build up levels of concentrates slowly and provide a roughage source at all times.

Finishing at grass: Move finishing lambs to clean pasture or allocate fresh grazing breaks when conditions become muddy. Move feeders or troughs regularly to avoid poaching. Raise drinking troughs, and provide hardcore area around drinkers to keep areas mud-free. Avoid routine free access to mineral supplements, instead treat animals for specific mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

Outdoors on roots / forage crops: Crutch / belly clip lambs before turning onto crops.  Allow sheep time to adjust to the new diet by restricting access for the first week and providing grass runback or free-access to hay. When supplementing with concentrates or hay, move feeding points regularly, to avoid poaching. Ensure sheep have access to a dry lying area. On freedraining soils, the crop itself may provide this. On heavy soils, or during wet weather, a grass runback or straw-bedded area should be provided.

Indoors: Do not overstock pens at housing and ensure sheep hosing is well ventilated.  Allow adequate space at feeding troughs.  For straw- bedded sheds use adequate straw and replenish regularly to keep lambs clean. For slatted sheds, ensure slats do not get blocked.

Clipping: Belly clipping and crutching can reduce the amount of fleece contamination especially for lambs being finished on root crops, it is an advantage for indoor finishing also. For housed lambs a full shear is an option that may be considered. Shearing should take place ideally 4 week pre drafting to allow sufficient wool regrowth to allow for subsequent remedial action (if needed) at the point of drafting or slaughter

Pre-Sale Management and transport:  At drafting avoid unnecessary mixing of groups particularly male and female lambs.  Take remedial action on dirty lambs before transport. Aim to draft lambs dry where possible, wet lambs could result in a lamb moving from a category B to a C.   Poor transport conditions may result in animals becoming contaminated and failing to achieve required cleanliness specification. Vehicles should be roofed (where possible) and well ventilated. Ensure vehicle is clean, dry and disinfected before loading. Use partitions/ dividers to confine and segregate animals particularly where mixed batches are being sent. Use absorbent materials on the floor where needed. Where decks are in use, ensure faeces / urine from higher decks does not soil sheep on lower decks.

Listen to Ciaran for more on this topic in the Ovicast podcast below

Michael Gottstein, Head of Sheep KT Teagasc gives an overview of a clean livestock policy in the video below 

Clean Livestock Policy – Sheep. A guide for Sheep Producers Download Publication (PDF) 

If you liked this article you might also be interested in Focus on ewe body condition score sees lamb numbers up in West Cork The Teagasc Sheep Specialists and Researchers issue an article on a topic of interest to sheep farmers on Tuesdays here on Teagasc Daily. Find more on Teagasc Sheep here.

For any further information or assistance contact your local Teagasc Office here: Advisory Regions.