Sheep farming made easy


Part 15: General equipment: Water, feed and shade

The welfare of your sheep depends mostly on the obvious, like sufficient water, feed and shading. When putting in some effort and care in designing these sources properly, most of your basic and day to day problems will disappear.

We thank the ARC Agricultural Engineering in South Africa for making their manual on sheep production and facilities available to the readers of ProAgri Zambia.

Water troughs and water basins

Water troughs must provide sufficient fresh water to the sheep. The larger the volume of the trough, the less frequent the replacement tempo will be. A low replacement tempo will minimise supervision of water provision, but will also influence the freshness of the water negatively. A storage capacity of ± 3 days is proposed, to provide enough time for any repairs to be done in the event of a water supply interruption. A smaller volume of water or a relatively small surface will keep the water cooler in the troughs. Troughs must be built in such a way that they can be cleaned easily. The required volume of the water trough can be calculated according to the drinking water requirements in Table 1.

Figure 1 shows a water trough of brick and plaster that can be used successfully to simultaneously provide two camps with water. A concrete slab of 800 mm to 1 m wide and 75 mm thick around the trough will limit muddy conditions.

Figure 1: A water trough of brick and plaster.

Water cribs must be cleaned regularly. A tap can be placed on the bottom of the crib for drainage. The ball valve must also be protected against damage.

In the feedlot layout, one water crib can be built in the boundary fence between two adjacent corrals. This saves material and labour costs. A roof can also be erected to keep the water cool, especially in summer.

Automatic drinking troughs available in the trade can also be used for water provision. Each trough has its own floating valve and has a plug at the lowest end to empty it for cleaning. The troughs are manufactured from aluminium or glass fibre. Each trough is sufficient for about 40 sheep. Comparative costs between the automatic troughs and a concrete water crib shows that a concrete water crib is cheaper than the troughs. Labour and time are, however, required for the construction of a concrete water crib.

The type of feed and the method of feed provision will determine the size and shape of feeding troughs.

Feed troughs and basins

Feed can be provided in various ways, from fixed feeding troughs to self-feeders, to loose-standing self-feeders and feeding cribs made from old car tyres.

Feeding troughs are normally provided in feedlots. The type of feed and the method of feed provision will determine the size and shape of feeding troughs. Cribs in a feedlot usually consist of plastered brick walls or moulded concrete. It is preferred that feed be under a roof to protect it from rain and rotting. The roofed area prevents the immediate environment from being trampled and becoming wet and soggy. The roof columns must be placed in such a way that they will not hamper mechanical feed delivery to the crib, as well as the scraping out of manure from the concrete slab in front of the crib.

A concrete slab of 800 mm wide in front of the crib is suggested to improve the conditions around the crib. The slab must be coarse so that the sheep do not slip and must be scrubbed or scraped clean at least once a week. The slab must have a slope away from the cribs.

Figure 2: Feed-trough with roof to protect feed.

Figure 2 shows a feeding trough where only the feed is under a roof. The disadvantage of this type of trough is that the roof must be opened every time the trough has to be filled. Although it increases the labour inputs, this type of trough is cheap compared to other types where a full roof cover is used over the entire feeding area.

A typical problem at feeding troughs is that sheep are inclined to climb into the crib.

This can be prevented by placing a pipe or cable of 300 to 400 mm above the upper rim of the front wall of the trough. The sheep can still put their heads through to feed, but the space is too small for them to get their whole bodies through.

Figure 3: Carefully placed pipework or cables prevent the sheep from climbing into a crib. Photo:

Self-feeders can be used successfully. Troughs are filled less frequently, thereby decreasing the labour input. A typical problem with self-feeders is bridge-forming that prevents the feed from being available for the sheep. An example of a portable self-feeder is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: A self-feeder decreases labour costs. Photo:

Provision of shade

Protection of sheep against sun, rain, hail and wind is essential. Shade in feedlots or grazing camps can be provided by means of shade netting, reeds, grass or wooden slats. These materials are relatively cheap, but if waterproofing is required, more expensive construction with corrugated sheets or asbestos sheets must be used. Shade of 0,5 to 0,75 m² per sheep must be provided.

Next month we shall look at all sorts of fences to contain your sheep. Published with acknowledgement to the ARC Agricultural Engineering for the use of their Sheep Facilities Manual. Visit for more information.

Figure 5: Your sheep will be thankful for shade against the sun in harsh weather conditions.

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