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Livestock, whether it be cows, sheep, goats or other animals play a vital role in agriculture and food production. Their well-being is paramount not only for ethical reasons but also for ensuring their productivity and the quality of the output products, such as meat.

Livestock housing is a crucial aspect of livestock management, and can significantly impact animal health, behaviour and overall well being.

There are a number of variables that need to be considered when looking for livestock housing, some of these are;

1) Space

Livestock need sufficient space to move around freely, express their natural behaviours and rest comfortably.

2) Ventilation

Adequate ventilation is essential to maintain air quality and prevent respiratory problems in livestock.

3) Bedding

Livestock should have access to comfortable and absorbent bedding material such as straw or deep litter, giving them a soft surface to lie and rest on preventing or reducing the risk of injuries.

4) Hygiene

Livestock housing needs to be supportive of maintaining a high level of cleanliness and hygiene, so that the spread of diseases is prevented and a healthy environment is provided for the livestock.

What are the Space Requirements for Livestock?

The amount of space required for different livestock species varies depending on their size, age and activity level.

Adequate feeding and living space must be allocated to maintain growth rates and keep stressors to a minimum. Current government guidelines for sheep housing and calf housing are illustrated in the table below:

Space Allowance
Lowland Ewe
Ewe Only1.2-1.4m 2
With lambs at foot2.0-2.2m 2
Hill Ewe
[45kg -65kg]
Ewe Only1.0-1.2m 2
With lambs at foot1.8-2.0m 2
LambsUp to 3 months0.5-0.6m 2
3 to 12 months0.75-0.9m 2
Rams 1.5-2.0m 2
Calves*50-84kg1.5m 2
85-140kg1.8m 2
140-200kg2.4m 2

*Loose housing on a solid floor with bedding.

Can you use a Polytunnel to House Livestock?

Polytunnels can make for great livestock housing and the advancements made in design and technology make polytunnels a truly credible alternative to traditional permanent livestock buildings.

Polytunnels, also called Polyhouses or Hoop Houses offer a vast range of advantages against the more traditional and permanent alternatives.

Natural Lighting

Polytunnels allow light and warmth to enter the building. Natural light improves living conditions by reducing instances of disease and mortality, whilst also encouraging better growth rates. Better lighting helps to keep harmful bacteria, fungi and mould at minimum levels.

Easy Partitioning

Polytunnels can work to reduce the spread of disease through partitioning. The easy separation of animals promotes good animal management practices to mitigate the spread of ill health and also allows easy monitoring and safe intervention where necessary, particularly useful during lambing season.

Climate Adaptability

Polytunnels, unlike permanent livestock housing, can be easily adapted to suit external weather conditions. The temperature can be controlled through adjustable ventilation, cladding material and size adjustments; enabling the livestock a comfortable and productivity focused environment all year round.

Cost Effective

Polytunnels are a relatively inexpensive and versatile housing option compared to building or maintaining traditional barns and sheds; and with finance pressures on agricultural businesses continuing to increase, cost savings are always helpful.

How to construct livestock housing workflows?

When considering livestock housing, it is important to consider how basic amenities can be met when deciding the internal layout. It should be easy to access and refill food and water troughs/stations, for this we recommend a central passage to allow easy access to animals penned on either side. The central passage provides easy monitoring of animals’ health and welfare but also a huge advantage during lambing season. The central passage also allows easy movement of livestock during necessary cleaning and maintenance tasks. Extra high options are also available if access for large machinery is required.

What polythene cover is best for livestock housing?

Here at Northern Polytunnels, we offer two main types of cover, depending on the intended purpose of your Livestock Housing.

We most commonly find Calf and Sheep Housing clad in White Polythene which gives 65-70% light transmission. This allows enough light to enter the building to provide a warm, bright living environment but prevents excessive heat build-up on warm, sunny days. The warmer environment helps to reduce bedding costs and helps to keep bacteria, fungi and mould at bay.

Alternatively, a green and white polythene cover can be used, the green outer blends into the surrounding environment but also provides a dark, calming environment for lambing. The white inner optimises artificial lighting, which is necessary with this cover as no natural light can pass through the cover.

PVC covers can also be used to provide a more hard-wearing, longer-term cover solution. Our Polythene covers are guaranteed for five years, although a ten-year life is expected. PVC covers are expected to last for around 20 years and are available in a range of solid and translucent colours.

Livestock Housing Ventilation

To minimise disease and maintain the health and wellbeing of your livestock it is important to ensure the flow of fresh air into their housing environment. Poor ventilation can lead to the accumulation of harmful gases and dust which can cause respiratory infections and other health issues.

We would recommend the addition of either a wind break or heavy-duty mesh on the sides of our Livestock housing, but also have other optional extras such as mesh panelled doors and roof fans. We are also happy to work with third party providers of specialist agricultural ventilation socks and equipment.

How can Northern Polytunnels help with your Livestock Housing needs?

With over 50 years of experience in the design and manufacture of Livestock Polyhouses, our skilled team can offer an unrivalled combination of engineering expertise and attention to detail.

We provide both single-span and multi-span livestock housing, an ideal solution for everything from a small flock of sheep to a large-scale working environment. The length and number of bays can be tailored to suit your requirements.