Hendre Ifan Goch Project Introduction: Comparing various bedding options for in-lamb ewes pre-lambing.
Site: Hendre Ifan Goch
Address: Glynogwr, Blackmill, Bridgend
Technical Officer: Elan Davies
Project Title: Comparing various bedding options for in-lamb ewes pre-lambing.
Introduction to project:
Managing and selecting the correct bedding material for ewes could not only reduce costs but also bring health benefits pre-lambing. Sheep farmers are embracing alternative bedding options in the run-up to, and during, lambing, but whatever material they opt for, managing it is key to maintaining the health, welfare and cleanliness of ewes prior to lambing. Straw remains the most commonly used bedding material for housed ewes, however, as its cost continues to increase significantly and its availability decreases, farmers are turning to alternative options. Slatted housing could offer a solution to these problems, however, its advantages must be balanced against the initial outlay.
Rhys and Russell Edwards, Hendre Ifan Goch, have been researching the idea of installing slatted floors in their sheep shed for quite some time, but with the price of straw currently at an all-time high, they decided to take the plunge in 2020, converting one of their existing sheds to a slatted floor sheep shed. Despite the significant upfront cost, the Edwards family hope the return on investment will be high due to savings made from not having to purchase as much straw. The main long-term aim of investing in slatted floors will be the reduction in bedding costs. Another aim, and positive feature of the slatted flooring, is the labour and time that will be saved bedding sheep. This was also a major catalyst for installing the slatted floors at Hendre Ifan Goch. Pictures of the slatted sheds being installed can be seen in Figures 1 and 2.
Figure 1 and 2. Slatted flooring being installed at Hendre Ifan Goch in 2020.
The main aim of this project is to identify potential alternative bedding options which may offer superior attributes in terms of cost effectiveness and animal health and welfare in comparison to traditional bedding materials such as straw. This project will focus on the impact different bedding materials have on factors such as labour, lameness, ewe cleanliness and overall animal welfare. The project will also take into consideration the cost effectiveness of each bedding material with the aim of reducing production costs.
The following bedding options will be compared:
- Slatted floors
- Sawdust – widely available, but some very fine products can contaminate fleeces and therefore make it less suitable for sheep bedding.
- Wheat straw
- Barley straw
- EnviroBed Original
Key Performance Indicators Set:
Due to the short-term nature of this project, specific key performance indicators are difficult to establish, however, with the aim of identifying an alternative bedding option that complements animal health and welfare, as well as decreasing labour and costs, the following KPI’s will hopefully be achieved long-term.
- Reduction in labour time
- Reduction in lameness instances
- Improvement in ewe cleanliness
- Reduction in bedding costs
Timeline and Milestones:
The following information will be recorded on a weekly basis for the 6 weeks leading up to lambing;
- Cost of each bedding (we will be using local current figures for these values, as well as calculating the return on investment of installing the slats).
- Bedding used (tonnes)
- Labour (working-hours spent bedding each week)
- Lameness instances (number of lame ewes treated)
- Ewe cleanliness (scored on a 1-5 clean score)
- Any other observations (ewe behaviour)
An infographic of all recorded information can be found in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Recorded information to compare bedding options.