By Dr Claire Morgan-Davies, Poppy Frater and Cathy Dwyer, SRUC

SheepNet – a Horizon 2020 European funded project bringing together scientists, advisors and farmers across several contributing countries, aims to increase ewe rearing rates.

Open to all countries, stakeholders and sheep producers, SheepNet will be sharing some of the best practices, tips and tricks and solution, in The Scottish Farmer, over the next few months.

The project which is the combination of a wealth of ideas gathered through national and international discussion workshops, includes some which are documented in this article with others freely available online in the knowledge reservoir.

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is part of SheepNet, with colleagues from the Hill and Mountain Research Centre near Crianlarich, from the Animal Welfare team in Penicuik and from SAC Consulting Beef and Sheep Select. In addition, seven partner countries (UK, France, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Romania and Turkey) and several other contributing countries (Hungary, Germany, Portugal) propose their tips and tricks, research and innovative solutions to the network.

Shed layout tips for feed access and labour efficiency

Making life easier was a key theme among the farmers, advisors and researchers present at one of the international SheepNet workshops, held in Spain last year.

The most popular idea came from the Irish farmers. They use water pipes to supply water to multiple lambing pens. This negates the time and labour involved with refilling water buckets, reduces the risks of lambs drowning, spillage and ewes dunging in the water. The pipes are 15cm diameter with holes cut out to align with the pens. A hose pipe fills one end and the other end can be removed to empty out the water when required. Clay in each individual drinker space creates a well for the ewe to drink from.

Take in pic one

Another popular idea among the participants relating to sheep shed efficiency came from Ayrshire. This farmer developed an approach to improve ewe access when feeding silage. He extended a ring feeder using a wooden frame to provide feeder space for 32 ewes rather than the standard 22 ewe spaces in a conventional ring feeder.

It is important that ewes have sufficient access to forage (15cm feeder space per ewe) so that the whole ewe group (including the shy feeders) will get the energy, protein and fibre they need. This is particularly important in late pregnancy when we start providing additional energy and protein, the more they get from forage the more rumen-friendly their diet is.

Extended feeders

And, a French farmer presented a simple idea for setting up pens. It is a light, simple, mobile rack mechanism to connect wooden hurdles or gates. The rack can be easily removed and reconnected to build and take down pens without difficulty. The plans for this are freely available at

Take in pic two

These three ideas for making life easier in your sheep shed this spring are part of many others that were shared among the European farmers. More information is available on the online SheepNet knowledge reservoir ( You can also join the network to receive newsletters and register to upcoming workshops. We are also on Twitter (@SheepNetEU) and on Facebook (SheepNetEU).

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