Looking After Sheep - Shade and Shelter
Shade can make sheep more comfortable, but its importance for cleanskins varies between breeds. South African breeds,
particularly Van Rooys, are happy sleeping in the sun on hot days, while British breeds, particularly Wiltis, head for the shade as soon as it warms up. They really need
a canopy to rest under in summer when the sun is overhead - sizeable trees or a shade cloth structure. The shaded ground will be bared out but heavily dunged, which wastes
the nutrients and the pasture potential. You can reduce the wastage if there are several different shade areas which will be used more lightly.
Shelter from wind and rain will improve any farm's productivity overall. Most new farmers want to grow
more trees, but need to know that other types of shelter meet different needs for sheep:
A well-developed wind break at right angles to the wind will slow it down for a fair distance. Enough wind breaks can decrease wind speed
over a whole property. A good wind break is at least three rows deep, with low shrubs as well as taller trees. Get design advice from Landcare and the Internet.
Shelter for lambing ewes is very different. Newborn lambs need shelter from wind and rain at ground level, so clumping grasses meet their
needs better than bare tree trunks. Because ewes like privacy when they give birth, it's best to provide shelter in many places in a paddock, particularly around the edges.
You can build low shelters, preferably boomerang-shaped walls backed into the wind, or make a stable pile of a few logs or roots. Depressions in the ground can help, but
not if they get wet and soggy in the rain.
Hobby farmers sometimes build special shelter sheds for their sheep and find that they don't get used. In general, sheep don't like to go into
enclosures that are roofed, particularly if they are dark. If you want to persevere, it can help to provide feed in the sheds until the sheep are used to them, and then put
feed in sometimes to keep the habit going.
Sheep can cope with two of cold, wind and rain, but have trouble with all three. Then they prefer shelter, particularly if they are in poor
condition or they are stressed (eg newly shorn wool sheep). Sheep turn their behinds to strong wind and rain, and walk before the wind. They can end up in a wet and miserable
group at the fence in the far corner of the paddock. The best shelter then is a boomerang-shaped group of shrubs set back three or so metres from the fence they are likely to
head to, so they can get behind it when they arrive, but it's an awkward area to fence while it gets established.