Next Article in Journal
Chemical Composition of Milk and Rumen Microbiome Diversity of Yak, Impacting by Herbage Grown at Different Phenological Periods on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
Previous Article in Journal
Mismatch of Glucose Allocation between Different Life Functions in the Transition Period of Dairy Cows
Previous Article in Special Issue
Environmental and Management Factors Affecting the Time Budgets of Free-Ranging Iberian Pigs Reared in Spain
Open AccessArticle

The Effect of Climate Parameters on Sheep Preferences for Outdoors or Indoors at Low Ambient Temperatures

1
Chair of Animal Nutrition, Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, Estonian University of Life Sciences, F.R. Kreutzwaldi 1, 51006 Tartu, Estonia
2
Chair of Animal Breeding and Biotechnology, Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, Estonian University of Life Sciences, F.R. Kreutzwaldi 1, 51006 Tartu, Estonia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(6), 1029; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10061029
Received: 2 March 2020 / Revised: 9 June 2020 / Accepted: 10 June 2020 / Published: 13 June 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Domestic Animal Behavior and Well-Being)
Sheep may be kept indoors over the winter period, especially in cool climates. There is currently a drive to keep sheep outside, especially on organic sheep farms. This paper examines the preferences that sheep have in cool conditions for outdoor or indoor housing to inform management practices. We found no evidence that mature sheep should be kept confined indoors throughout the winter period, even in normal winter weather conditions in northern Europe, with temperatures as low as −20 °C and where precipitation and relative humidity may be high. In all conditions, during this trial, the majority of ewes preferred to be outside. Access to the outdoor area should be managed to restrict outdoor access for lambs, ewes with unweaned lambs and recently shorn sheep. Conditions in which sheep did choose to move indoors were: low wind chill values (≤10 °C) and/or high air humidity (>90%). In such cases, sheep should have the opportunity to shelter indoors.
Threshold temperatures for cold stress in sheep are not well understood, the available literature is somewhat dated and reports relate to winter temperatures that are relatively benign. Sheep’s preferences for outdoor versus indoor environments, when given free access to both, were investigated in the winter period at temperatures as low as −23 °C. Two sheep farms, one with access to a permanent uninsulated barn and one with a polytunnel shelter, both with free access to an outdoor area, were used. Observations were made with a camera positioned to register numbers of sheep outdoors and indoors, with one image taken hourly over twenty-four hours. The sheep clearly preferred to be outdoors; on all occasions the majority of the sheep were outdoors. There was, however, a significant decrease, albeit small, in the numbers of sheep choosing to be outdoors at lower temperatures (p < 0.001), higher relative humidity (p < 0.001) and greater wind chill (p < 0.001). Therefore, even at cooler temperatures than reported previously, sheep are motivated to be outdoors rather than indoors. It is not implicitly good for their welfare, and may not be true for lambs and shorn sheep, but accessing an outdoor area appears to be what they choose to do when given the choice. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; cold climate; wind chill; sheep outdoors; animal shelter animal welfare; cold climate; wind chill; sheep outdoors; animal shelter
Show Figures

Figure 1

  • Supplementary File 1:

    ZIP-Document (ZIP, 794 KiB)

  • Externally hosted supplementary file 1
    Doi: doi.org/10.15159/eds.art.spl.20.01
    Link: https://doi.org/10.15159/eds.art.spl.20.01
    Description: Figure S1: Percentage of ewes outdoors dependent on ambient temperature. One point corresponds to one photograph, black lines denote the linear relationship (corresponding correlation coefficients with p-values are presented in the lower right corner of the figures) and the red lines indicate the potential non-linear relationship fitted with a LOWESS curve (locally weighted scatterplot smoothing); Figure S2: The wind chill values depending on the percentage of ewes outdoors. For each group of observations the empirical distribution of wind chill values is presented (solid black line), grey boxes mark the area with the middle 50% of values (inter quartile range), black bold lines denote the wind chill medians by groups and dotted horizontal lines indicate the overall mean; small horizontal lines denote single observations; Figure S3: Presence of humidity and wind chill values depending on the percentage of ewes outside. The two columns of graphs correspond to the observations made on the separate farms and the four rows of figures show the climate conditions when ≤70%, 71–80%, 81–90% or 91–100% of the ewes were outside; larger red dots denote the average wind chill and humidity values; Figure S4: Left-hand side drawings: Percentage of ewes outdoors dependent on the direction of the wind. One point corresponds to one photograph and the red lines indicate the mean percentage of ewes outside, estimated with the LOWESS algorithm (locally weighted scatterplot smoothing). Right-hand side pictures: location of paddocks in the terrain and their exposure to winds (Land Board, Web Map Application, https://xgis.maaamet.ee/maps/XGis? app_id=UU82A&user_id=at&LANG=2&WIDTH=1060&HEIGHT=918&zlevel=0,552500,6505000; https://xgis. maaamet.ee/ maps/XGis?app_id=UU82A &user_id=at&LANG=2&WIDTH=1060&HEIGHT=918&zlevel= 10,600339.625,6456813.28); Table S1: Data of observational studies and climate parameters.
MDPI and ACS Style

Piirsalu, P.; Kaart, T.; Nutt, I.; Marcone, G.; Arney, D. The Effect of Climate Parameters on Sheep Preferences for Outdoors or Indoors at Low Ambient Temperatures. Animals 2020, 10, 1029. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10061029

AMA Style

Piirsalu P, Kaart T, Nutt I, Marcone G, Arney D. The Effect of Climate Parameters on Sheep Preferences for Outdoors or Indoors at Low Ambient Temperatures. Animals. 2020; 10(6):1029. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10061029

Chicago/Turabian Style

Piirsalu, Peep; Kaart, Tanel; Nutt, Irje; Marcone, Giovanni; Arney, David. 2020. "The Effect of Climate Parameters on Sheep Preferences for Outdoors or Indoors at Low Ambient Temperatures" Animals 10, no. 6: 1029. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10061029

Find Other Styles
Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Access Map by Country/Region

1
Search more from Scilit
 
Search
Back to TopTop