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The use of outdoor yards by sheep during winter

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2012 IX International Livestock Environment Symposium (ILES IX)  ILES12-0316.(doi:10.13031/2013.41621)
Authors:   Grete H. M Jørgensen, Knut E Bøe
Keywords:   behaviour, housing, thermoregulation, weather factors

In order to investigate the effect of roof cover and location of feed on sheeps use of an outdoor yard under different weather conditions, we conducted a 2 x 2 factorial experiment with roof covering of outdoor yard (yes or no) and location of feed (indoors or outdoors) in four different combinations. The experiment was performed from November 2009 to March 2010, and twenty adult ewes of the Norwegian White breed were randomly allotted to 4 groups with 5 animals. Groups were rotated between treatment pens on a weekly basis and twenty-four hour video recordings were performed once a week. General behaviours (standing, feeding, resting) and location of animals (indoors or outdoors) were scored for each individual using instantaneous sampling. Weather factors affected resting behavior, but did not affect the proportion of time sheep spent in the outdoor yards, feeding or standing/walking. More sheep were resting in the outdoor yard in pens with a roof covering the yard (24.2 1.4%) compared to in yards that did not have a roof cover (15.5 1.2%; P<0.01). Locating the feed outdoors increased the time spent resting indoors (47.4 1.5% vs. 31.6 1.5%; P<0.0001), indicating that if a dry and comfortable resting area is offered indoors, the feed should be located in the outdoor yard. Utilizing an outdoor yard as part of the total area may be a cost effective way of meeting new space regulations for sheep production.

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