For ruminant animals raised for fattening purposes, how many animals is recommended for a housing unit? This largely depends on the dimension of your housing unit.
However, I will not advice keeping too many animals in a housing unit because this will increase competition for feeds and space and also increase the rate of injuries done to one another.
For cattle, I will like to recommend between 4 and 6 while for sheep and goat, keeping ten in a housing unit may not be bad. Before deciding on the actual number to keep, it is better your consultant is carried along right from the time of construction.
Livestock / Ruminant Animals Housing
Most farm animals need some kind of shelter to escape the elements. Most people think winter is the most important time to provide shelter but an animal’s natural coat can allow them to tolerate much colder temperatures than people can.
Summer heat can by far, be harder on animals than winter if shade is not available to them either by trees or structures if they are out on pasture, or lack of ventilation in a barn or building.
Many livestock animals like pigs and rabbits, do not sweat, so heat stroke can quickly set in. A simple, three-sided shelter with an open front will meet the needs of many farm animals on pasture and is often the building of choice to raise healthy livestock.
When designing a three-sided animal shelter, make sure the open side faces south, away from prevailing winds. Locate the structure on an elevated, well-drained site and keep winter access in mind for feeding and water handling.
Factors to Consider when Planning Adequate Livestock / Ruminant Animals Housing
There are several factors to consider when planning adequate livestock shelter in cold weather:
• Air quality: Animal shelters should be open, providing natural ventilation, or enclosed, using fans and proper air inlets around the ceiling perimeter to provide good air circulation.
Tight buildings result in a buildup of respiration gases, and animal odors, which can irritate the animal’s lungs and cause pneumonia. Dangerous ammonia levels can also build up and lead to suffocation death of animals and their caretakers.
• Drafts: Animals can stand cold temperatures, but you should protect them from drafts. Constructing panels in front of an open building can reduce drafts. Consider drafts at animal height, not person height.
When animals are allowed to run loose in a pen instead of being hitched, they will search for the most comfortable spots as needed.
• Dry bedding area: Animals will be far more comfortable in the cold if they have clean, dry bedding. A thick, dry bed provides insulation from the cold ground and decreases the amount of energy the animal has to expend to keep warm. Shelter from the snow and rain allows an animal’s coat to remain dry, which provides maximum insulating value.
• Fresh water2: All animals need water to survive. Under cold conditions, provide fresh water often or use freeze-proof watering devices. Animals will drink more when water is 50°F.
• Adequate food: Animals can endure severe cold temperatures if they eat enough food (energy) to maintain their energy reserves (body fat). Animals need energy for growth and maintenance.
Extra energy is expended to keep warm. Therefore, they will require additional amounts of good quality feed during cold weather. For herbivores, free choice hay in hay racks should be supplied in addition to a purchased feed.
Meanwhile, the main purpose of livestock production is to convert the energy in feed into products that can be utilized by human beings, such as milk, eggs, meat, wool, hair, hides and skins, draught power and manure (fertilizer).
Traditional, extensive livestock production involving indigenous breeds and low-cost feeding will usually have low performance and can therefore only justify minimal, if any, expenditure for housing.
However, where improved breeds, management and feeding are available it will usually be economically beneficial to increase the production intensity.
Here are some amazing ruminant animals books to guide you and help you get started: