In the tropics indeed else where it is not common practice sheep and goat housing in special buildings as this is of little practical value to traditional rural rearers.
Even in advanced countries it is within the past three decades that attempt to house sheep and goats permanently in environmentally controlled conditions is carried out to enable round-the-year production of lambs by the provision of artificial lighting pattern which enables ewe to produce up to two set of lambs per year.
If sheep rearing is considered in relation to improved husbandry then the construction of a sheep house becomes essential.
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Importance of Sheep and Goat Housing
Some of the importance of sheep/goat house are briefly discussed in the following sub-sections;
1. Protection from Adverse Weather Condition: The major function of a sheep/goat house is to protect the animal from adverse climatic condition such as sunshine, rain, wind or cold.
For the most part adult sheep/goat are equipped to withstand cold due to heat produce during the fermentation process but young lambs/kids have not yet develop this mechanism and should, therefore be protected sheep/goat do not like being drench by heavy rain, nor excessive such particularly when the sun is at its height. These can clearly be seen by the attempts the animals makes to seek shelter from excessive sun or rain.
2. Better Surveillance: When sheep/goats are kept together in a house, the owner can better observe them. He is therefore in a better position to notice sick animals and treat appropriately before the disease is spread.
3. Protection from Predators: By the provision of a house, sheep/goat are protected from predators such as dogs, snakes, thieves, accidents and other harmful vices.
4. Easy handling: Handling is easier, animals can be caught, and flock management is improved because it allows for certain management practices such as isolation of rams outside breeding season and weaning to be carried out. Other management practices such as identification docking and castration can be done easily.
5. Feeding of Supplements is Easier: This is so because animal of the same age or same physiological sate such as yearlings, gestation, fattening weaning can be kept in the same group. This improves performance since each animal receives supplement meant to meet its particular production requirement.
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Sheep and Goat Housing Construction Materials
There are several materials in the market available for the construction of a sheep/goat house. The major underlining factor is the resource (money) available to the farmer. The use of concrete. Galvanized iron and wire netting should not be regarded as the optimum.
Sheep/goat house made of such materials do not necessarily produce the best animals. Good performance records have been obtained from sheep /goat housed in thatched roof supported with brush wood.
There is no universal solution. Natural materials easily available to the farmer which can be renewable at low cost seems better suited to our farmer. It is not the materials used that determine whether a sheep/goat house is modern or traditional but the design, sitting, care taken in its construction and above all, the way the house is maintained.
Local materials available include, palm, straw, mud, eathened floor banana leaves, bamboo, rope, planks etc.
1. Covered Shelter with a Yard
This appears the best kind of housing for our sheep/goats given the climatic condition, nature of sheep/goats and economic condition of most farmers.
While the covered house provide protection from adverse climatic conditions the yard provide space for exercise. Most times except in very wet conditions drinkers and feeding troughs can be left in the yard.
The sheep/goat house should not be sited in wet, water logged area. The house should be built on firm, even ground with a slight slope to allow rain water to run off.
Since sheep/goat houses are sources of unpleasant odours, noise and flies it should not be built in densely populated areas. As much as possible especially in fairly large flocks it should be at the outskirts. With the shepherd’s house following the sheep house oh the same site.
The roof of the covered house should descend to a height of 1 -1.20m above the ground level to provide protection from wind. The ridge should then be at a height of 1-8.2m. This is sufficient to allow the shepherd access to the house.
If the post in made of brushwood, resistance varieties should be used so that they wine not be easily damaged by insect or get rottened. Such wood should be treated with waste oil to prevent attacked by insects and inserted into a concrete base which should protect them from soil moisture space requirement for various classes of sheep are:
Adult 0.20 – .040m2.
Ewe with lamb 0.30 – .0.50m2 Young sheep 0. 15 – 0.20m2 Ram 0.50 – 0.75m2.
Space required for the yard should be calculated on the basis of 2 m- 3m2 per head. The minimum height of yard should be 1m.
Note: The space required for animals in the covered house is given for tropical conditions where animals are not expected to stay in house for any appreciable length of time.
Several such yards can be located a long side each other if there are several flocks that must be separated. It is important to provide a gate with a width of about 2m to avoid jostling which occurs when sheep/goat leaves or enters the yard.
2. Lambing/kidding Unit
This is an area used to isolate pregnant ewes/does a few days to and after lambing/kidding. This allows for close monitoring of the pambing/kidding unit for 3-4days. This is to enable a close observation of both the dam and the lamb/kid and to ensure that the lamb/kid has obtained colostrums from the dam.
When constructing the lambing/kidding unit the number of sheep/goats in the flock should be taken into consideration, the method of breeding and body size of the breed.
Feeding rack and water trough should be available. Unlimited supply of feed and water o the dam in he lambing/kidding unit is important where this is not available, the dam should not be taken there.
A high level of hygienic should be maintained in the lambing/kidding unit. Bedding used should be renewed after each lambing/kidding and burnt particularly of the floor is rammed earth.
3. Sheep/goat Handling Unit
An essential requirement for all sheep and goat farm is an efficient handling unit, including a race, dipping tank and footbath. This should be designed in such a way as to allow all operations to be done quickly. With the minimum number if helpers and an absence of stress and train on both men and animal.
Procedures carried out in he handling unit are : dipping, spraying, care of he feet, closing and inoculation and dragging.
All handling systems comprise the following features.
1. A gathering pen-large enough to take all the sheep to be dealt with at one time.
2. A forcing pen – This acts as a funnel to the race i.e. the narrow passage which sheep are forced into a single file with gates to enable sheep to be sorted out into separate pens.
3. A dipping bath with draining pen
4. A footbath
5. Handling or treatment pens.
6. Holding or drafting pens into which sheep pass after treatment and sorting.
Handling unit should be sited centrally to grazing areas, free draining, shaded and convenient for access and loading. All construction must be free of sharp edges. Working area should be rooted to assist in the operations that must be carried out under all conditions.
In conclusion, there is a need for adequate housing for sheep and goats, low income farmers can take advantage of the local construction materials available in their environment as this will save cost and when properly managed improve the performance of their flock.
The provision of adequate housing is necessary in sheep and goat production if improved productivity is to be achieved. Different construction materials are available. The resources available to the farmer and his environment determines what he uses. In the tropics a covered house with a yard is considered sufficient.