A hot topic at this time of year is straw availability and housing strategies for the winter. But is there any other option to housing sheep?
Sheep slats have been used widely in Ireland but have not seen a huge uptake in Scotland. The biggest advantage they have is savings in cost of straw and time and cost of labour bedding sheep, as well as giving you the ability to house more sheep per square metre.
Straw bedded: 0.75 – 0.90 m²/head
Slats: 0.40 – 0.60 m²/head
Straw bedded: 1.00 – 1.40 m²/head
Slats: 0.80 – 1.10 m²/head
Ewes with lambs
Straw bedded: 1.80 – 2.20 m²/head
Slats: 1.00 – 1.70 m²/head
There are numerous types of material that slats can be made from including plastic, wood, metal mesh and rubber, each at a different cost. Some tips to watch out for with different types of slats include:
- Plastic slats are often the most expensive.
- Wooden slats should have no bark or knots, these make the timber weak.
- Metal slats should be galvanised to ensure longevity.
- Wire slats generally have good longevity and are non slip with the criss-cross of the wire.
- Wool must be cleared from slats to stop them blocking.
- Identify the best forage for the system, bulky feeds such as hay can block the slats, chopped silage is best.
- Keep drafts from below the sheep, to stop them being cold especially when shorn.
- However a good airflow must be achieved beneath the slats in storage to prevent ammonia smells.
- Slats should be maintained and power washed annually.
- DON’T put lame sheep on slats.
- Check farm assurance standards and organic standards if relevant to you.
The welfare code for sheep says ”Newly-born and young lambs should not be put on slatted floors unless suitable bedding is also provided.” Wooden slats can warp over time, making gaps wider, beware that lambs don’t get trapped in them. The type of slat for lambing should be closely examined; slats do work extremely well for hoggs.
When evaluating the use of slats for sheep, you should weigh up the cost and availability of straw against the cost of the slats. Other alternatives could include shavings and sawdust, woodchips or even peat.
Kirsten Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org
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