Shelter and shade for grazing sheep: implications for animal welfare and production and for landscape health

David Masters, Dominique Blache, Amy L Lockwood, Shane Maloney, Hayley Norman, Gordon Refshauge, Serina Hancock

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Shade and shelter may provide protection from cold and heat stress, a source of feed during prolonged or seasonal drought, specific essential nutrients, increased pasture and crop production and improved landscape health. Cold stress contributes to the average of 8% (single) and 24% (twin) of lambs that die
within 3 days of birth in Australia and the estimated 0.7% of the Australian flock that die post-shearing during extreme or unseasonal weather. Shelter has resulted in an average reduction in mortality of 17.5% for twin-born lambs and 7% for single-born lambs according to Australian studies and decreases
the susceptibility of ewes to metabolic disease and possibly dystocia. Because many of the published studies are from research areas where cold stress is expected, they are not indicative of industry-wide responses, a research priority is to determine the probability of lamb and ewe deaths from cold stress across different sheep production areas. Although shelter may improve lamb survival, ewes do not always choose to lamb in a sheltered location. For this reason, there is a requirement for research into the voluntary use of shelter in commercial-sized paddocks and the role that nutritive value of shelter plays in attracting and holding ewes to shelter, and to their lambs. Heat stress may also result in lamb deaths and influences feed conversion efficiency, appetite, reproduction, wool
growth and disease susceptibility. The consequences of heat stress may go unnoticed over a yearly production cycle, although there is some evidence that shade may increase weaning rates and feed intake of grazing sheep. There are ancillary benefits from shade and shelter. Trees may improve crop production through reducing wind damage and evapotranspiration and provide timber. Shrubs provide feed during the summer–autumn feed gap or drought, are useful for the management of land degradation and provide habitat for native fauna. It is clear that shade and shelter in the correct locations provide a range of benefits to livestock and the landscape; nevertheless, adoption appears low. Research that focuses on defining the benefits on a farm or landscape scale is required to support extension programs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimal Production Science
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2023


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