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Specification of pen rail spacing and trough heights to prevent escape and enable good access to feed by sheep during sea shipments from New Zealand

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A trial was carried out to determine the optimal height of feeding troughs above floor level and the spacing between pen railings which would enable sheep to access feed troughs but prevent them from getting out of pens during sea voyages. The trial involved a group of 16 large (79 kg) wether sheep and 24 small (30 kg) wether lambs which were held in pens and trained to eat lucerne pellets. Feed troughs similar to those used on ships were constructed 260 mm deep and 220 mm wide. A system of adjustable railings were used to alter the trough height and to determine the optimal spacing to allow the large sheep to get their heads through, but to prevent small sheep from escaping. In order that sheep of various sizes can access feed from the bottom of feed troughs, the height of the top edge of the trough should not exceed 360 mm above floor level for 30 kg sheep or 460 mm for mature sheep. This range is due to differences between the groups in their shoulder height, and variation between individuals within each group. Shoulder heights of the small sheep used in this trial ranged from 505 to 590 mm, and for the 16 mature animals the range was 610-715 mm. It is important that the feed troughs are low enough for all animals to access the feed on offer. Mature sheep were able to pass their heads between rails spaced at 200 mm without difficulty, but some difficulty was experienced when the space was reduced to 180 mm. The maximum rail spacing which prevented the escape of 30 kg lambs could not be determined with certainty because they could pass through a space of only 180 mm when laid on their side, but the smallest space through which they passed voluntarily was 220 mm. Hence the optimal spacing between railings which would allow all sheep good access to feed and would prevent almost all small sheep from escaping is about 190-210 mm.

Keywords: Livestock export; Sheep; Transport

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 1995

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