Ewes being sheltered in a livestock polytunnel

The advantages of housing sheep at lambing time are profound. Livestock housing can provide a sheltered environment for new-born lambs, offering protection against extreme weather conditions and allowing ewes and lambs to be more carefully observed for signs of illness. It also allows ewes to be grouped according to their feeding needs, taking into account condition score and litter size.

On the other hand, investments in well-design livestock housing can often be costly as can the considerable bedding costs associated with sheep housing. Housing ewes for an extended period can unfortunately also cause an increase in disease risk, especially lameness. The build-up of pathogens during the lambing period can lead to the quick spread of diseases, although this can be prevented.

As bacterial infections can cause considerable losses at lambing time, it’s important to ensure that your housing environment is well-maintained and most importantly, hygienic. According to Lamlac, as many as one in five lambs lost around lambing time ‘may well have died because of an unhygienic environment’. Good management and well-constructed buildings can help to limit this danger. 

In our experience, polytunnel housing for ewes and lambs can provide a much-welcome source of light and warmth, creating a dry, low-stress environment for your stock whilst keeping bacteria, fungi and odours to a minimum. The level of good hygiene afforded by polytunnels is crucial to preventing the incidence and spread of infections, ultimately reducing lamb losses overall. 

Although often cheaper than traditional buildings, the notion that a polytunnel is a poor man’s livestock house is certainly no longer the case. Advancements made in polyhouse structural design and improved engineering techniques make them a truly incredible, inexpensive alternative. They can also be used for storage and a place to shear sheep, making them a year-round investment. 

In a Farmers Guardian article on the use of sheep housing polytunnels, the flock manager for Procter’s Farm pedigree Texel flock at Tatham Hall Farm said: “It is a really good environment for lambing and sheep seem to really like them and do well. They let in a lot of light and they are warm in winter, but at the same time are well ventilated. This set up works really well at lambing time”. 

In the video below, sheep farmer Robert Bailey shows how he managed to cut costs by erecting a polytunnel over an old silage pit to house his in-lamb ewes: 

Livestock polytunnels also benefit from increased levels of natural light, providing natural vitamin-enriching sunshine and warmth for livestock. Many farmers often assume that it would become too hot inside a polytunnel, but they are widely used to house livestock in warmer countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Our white polythene covers can also provide 30-35% shading. 

Whether you decide to opt for a traditional building or a livestock polytunnel, it’s important that hygiene standards remain high in your lambing shed. Remember to thoroughly clean your lambing pens before the ewes come inside and bed them up with plenty of clean, dry bedding. Wet straw and afterbirth should be removed, and fresh straw provided between ewes to reduce disease.