[ASC-media] Confinement feeding of sheep

Yuncken, Elizabeth eyuncken at agric.wa.gov.au
Mon Aug 9 13:16:30 EST 2004

Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, media release - 9 August 2004


New research is being undertaken on confinement feeding of sheep to
determine the most sustainable options.

The research, by the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, will
monitor a number of sheep confinement feeding areas across the Central and
Upper Great Southern Agricultural areas of WA.  

Department research officer Ned Crossley said the project would identify
good site selection and design features and examine some innovative
practices being used that could be of benefit to all confinement feeders. 

"The results will form a sound basis for industry to develop a code of
practice and best practice guidelines for sheep confinement feeding
systems," Mr Crossley said.

"Confinement feeding systems provide an excellent management tool to finish
sheep or maintain them during drought and can help minimise environmental
hazards associated with grazing and provide benefits to cropping systems at
the same time," he said.  

"Confinement feeding enables control of the feed ration, animal health and
welfare and minimises soil damage to bare paddocks in summer and waterlogged
soils in winter. 

"They provide the flexibility to remove or apply grazing pressure at
critical times for pasture and pest management."

Mr Crossley said while most sectors of the sheep industry recognised the
maintenance of environmental values was essential to protect the long-term
interests of the industry, no formal guidelines for the environmental
management of confinement feeding systems exist. 

He said guidelines for other intensive animal enterprises had been applied
to sheep confinement feeding systems however, these were not entirely
appropriate and strict adherence to these guidelines could render sheep
finishing enterprises uneconomic. 

The study will consider the key factors required to maximise the efficiency
and environmental benefits of sheep confinement feeding systems including
soil type, landscape position, and distance from the watertable, shelter,
water and feed supply as well as managing manure and runoff.


1 Soil Type
Avoid very sandy or gravely sites. Nutrients can leach easily through light
soils into the water table and cause pollution and algal blooms in
downstream dams and watercourses. 

2 Slope 
Avoid steep or flat sites. Slightly sloping sites prevent waterlogging and
erosion but minimise the amount of manure carried off the site in runoff.  

3 Landscape position
Keep well up slope from drainage lines to avoid risk of nutrients and
organic material entering waterways and dams.

4 Distance from the watertable
Ensure the winter watertable is at least 1.5m below ground level to reduce
groundwater contamination.

5 Landscape features
Choose sites without outcropping or shallow bedrock.  Nutrients can easily
leach into the watertable through soils formed on granite. Exclude remnant
vegetation from confinement area.

6 Shelter
Tree windbreaks and shelters in the pens have been shown to improve feed
conversion efficiency in confinement feeding.  Choose sites downslope from
remnant vegetation.

7 Water and feed supply 
Sheep in confinement need access to plentiful, good quality water. The daily
requirement should be deliverable within 3 hours.  It pays to analyse the
feed in the ration. Match the ration to the animals' needs and your feeding
objective, less nutrients are excreted this way.  Don't allow spoilt feed to
accumulate and attracts flies.

9 Solid waste
Manure, straw and waste feed will build up on the site. Have a good
composting area to stockpile it. Keep in mind the points mentioned above.  

10 Liquid waste
Divert paddock runoff away from site with a grade bank and collect
confinement area runoff in a settling pond. Shelterbelts and grass strips
help to also intercept runoff and use groundwater.

Ned Crossley Research Officer 9881 0230 or 
Eliza Dowling Development Officer 9881 0224
Alison Blake Media Liaison Officer 9368 3641

Submitted by
Liz Yuncken
Community Liaison Officer
Department of Agriculture

Ph 08 9368 3937
Fax 08 9474 2018
eyuncken at agric.wa.gov.au

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