Sheep in field in Ireland surrounded by flock

Following a particularly wet summer and autumn last year, abattoir operators across the UK witnessed a steep rise in the number of dirty sheep being submitted for slaughter, leading to inefficiencies in the supply chain and leaving many sheep producers out of pocket.

Indeed, many factories have been seen to crack down on dirty sheep, particularly in Ireland where there have recently been reports of some plants turning away animals. This renewed focus on clean sheep policies is not to be baulked at, however, as the benefits are immense.

Whilst producing clean sheep for slaughter can be a difficult task, especially during bouts of bad weather, an effective clean livestock policy is necessary to guarantee the safety of consumers and protect the reputation of the British and Irish meat industries.

As well as benefitting the industry through increased efficiency and slaughter line speed, delivering clean sheep for slaughter can also help to increase your bottom line by reducing the amount of carcass value lost to trimming and improving the value of by-products.

One aspect that directly impacts sheep cleanliness is the housing they are kept in, and to help you, we have compiled advice and recommendations from a range of industry experts and organisations that are ideally suited to farmers and sheep producers.

According to the Food Standards Agency, good housing design and management can help to encourage cleanliness, although care must be taken to ensure that the housing offers good ventilation, proper drainage and an even floor surface. They recommend you aim for:

• Well ventilated sheep housing

• Concrete flooring sloped sufficiently to allow adequate drainage, and removal of dirty water to prevent pollution

• Floors free of pot-holes, and roofs, guttering and water troughs that are well maintained

• Feeding arrangements designed to avoid dung contamination of feeds

• Use of solid barriers between groups of finishing sheep to help prevent contamination transfer

• Fully enclosed housing sited with the longitudinal axis running north-south

• Open-fronted pens facing south or south-east

• Well-designed feeding/drinking arrangements to prevent concentration of dung in these areas

Sheep finished on roots and forage crops are more likely to become wet and dirty so always ensure that sufficient shelter is available during poor weather. Avoid creating boggy areas where sheep can become dirty by frequently moving racks, troughs and feeders. 

Whilst grass-finished sheep are relatively clean, adverse weather and heavy, poorly drained soils may make it necessary to house them prior to slaughter. This can help keep your sheep clean and dry, prevent gut fill and reduce the risk of the carcass being contaminated.

There are many benefits to housing your sheep prior to slaughter and a livestock polytunnel can help achieve the housing recommendations put forward by the Food Standards Agency by creating an ideal environment that can withstand the worst of the British weather. 

Our sheep housing polytunnels are the strongest on the market and feature our unique cover tensioning design for ease of installation. Whilst ideal for housing sheep before slaughter and during the winter, they can also be used for hay and general storage. 

In fact, many farmers are now using polytunnels as an inexpensive alternative to traditional livestock buildings. If you would like more information on how our polytunnels could solve your housing shortage, contact us on 01282 873 120 or email