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Rearing livestock can be a tricky enterprise. Quite a lot of planning goes into creating ideal housing spaces for the welfare of these animals. Barns are widely used to provide secure shelter to livestock. Most farm animals require shelter. The domestication of several animals by human beings has led to a dynamic interspecies relationship. Human beings are highly dependent on these animals and vice versa. In terms of livestock farming, their welfare is of utmost importance.
Dairy and beef cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, goats, and poultry are the most common animals housed in barns. Several factors must be taken into consideration when creating these housing spaces for livestock: climatic conditions, air and water quality, bedding, pasture, food, etc.
Animal shelters must ideally be open with natural ventilation or air circulation using inlets or fans. Humid spaces which result in a buildup of moisture and gases can cause respiratory and other diseases among livestock. Levels of ammonia are also an important factor to consider since high levels of ammonia can cause suffocation and death. Livestock housing must be planned in such a way that the animals are protected from drafts, especially in places with extreme climates.
What Animals Live in a Barm?
Different animals have different requirements of exercise, space, and pasture. Barn animals also require exercise yards and pasture if they are not given purchased feed. Let’s take a look at the most commonly reared farm animals and their respective housing requirements.
Sows on the verge of giving birth are moved to gestation or farrowing crates. These pens have separations made of metal bars which separate the piglets from their mother, while still allowing them to nurse. Gestation crates are used for a variety of reasons. They allow the caretaker more control over the temperature and the humidity of the housing area. Piglets are normally moved to a nursery after three to five weeks of being born. They are weaned and transitioned to adult feed.
Housing for sheep, as for all other farm animals, depends on the climate, lambing seasons and grazing patterns. Lambing percentages are observed to be higher when shed lambing is used. Sheep that are housed have lower nutritional requirements, while sheep that are allowed to graze and are kept outdoors, have lower respiratory diseases. Barns are commonly used to protect, provide shelter as well as to store hay, bedding, and equipment. They are useful during adverse weather, making it easier and convenient to care for the flock. Rams usually require separate housing spaces. Quarantine areas are necessary for new as well as sick animals.
‘Farm flocks’ and ‘range flocks’ are the most common production systems for sheep in the United States. Farm flocks require more intensive management than range flocks. They are housed in barns during cold weather and allowed to pasture in warmer weather. Sheep farming requires housing based on the season and time of the year. Their requirements for shelter are also based on their breeding seasons.
Breeding or bred ewes that are confined require anywhere about 12 to 16 square feet of space in their pens. Pens for lambing purposes are usually 16 to 25 square feet in size. On the other hand, when group housing is practiced, a ewe and her lambs need around 20 square feet of space. Sheep barns must be ventilated with no heat or humidity build-up. Respiratory issues like bronchitis or pneumonia are quite common among sheep when raised in a confined space. Sheep, even healthy lambs are quite tolerant of cold weather.
Beef cattle require housing spaces depending on their ages and the season. They are allowed to pasture during the summer. Mature cattle are moved to feedlots where cattle can ove freely within fenced areas. Cattle that are ready to calve, sick cattle as well as calves that are ready to be weaned from their mother’s milk, require indoor housing such as barns.
Dairy cattle are usually housed in barns with stalls. Complete confinement has often come under criticism since it restricts the movement and needs of the cattle. Several types of barns are used to house dairy cattle, depending on the region, climate etc. Bedded-pack barns, tiestall barns, freestall barns, and compost bedded-pack barns are the most popular housing options for cattle.
Goats tend to adapt to different climates and housing spaces. They become vulnerable to respiratory issues as well as hypothermia when continuously exposed to damp and drafts. Thus, they require protected spaces when exposed to such conditions. Housing is also necessary when the does are giving birth. Open and confinement housing are the most common housing options used when rearing goats. It is necessary for any system of housing to include separate spaces for newborns, lactating, and non-lactating does and bucks.
Horses are normally housed in barns, stables, or yards. Some horses dislike being confined or stabled, but this practice has endured through time since caring for them becomes easier. Stabled horses may be more prone to respiratory and GI disorders caused by microbes, mites or parasites. Air quality, sunlight exposure, and ventilation is of the utmost importance when raising horses in a confined space. Barns must be designed to allow maximum ventilation, space and sunlight so as to reduce mold build-up and make cleaning easier.
Broilers and layers are the two types of chicken that are raised domestically. While broilers provide meat, the latter provide eggs. Newly hatched chicks are often kept in smaller, protected partitions where they have free access to feed and water. Broilers are kept in barns until they achieve a certain weight.
Laying hens are housed in cages until they are 17 weeks old, after which they are transferred to laying houses or barns with floor systems or battery cages.
Heat stress is a major factor when it comes to understanding the housing requirements of chickens. They experience acute stress when exposed to high temperatures.
Guinea Fowl and Turkeys
Guinea fowl and turkeys are often kept without shelters since they are active foragers as well as hunters. But housing is provided depending on their breeding seasons as well as in inclement weather.
Quail are small birds which require as little as 1 square foot per bird and are great for smaller farms. They require housing that protects them from predators and harsh weather.
Geese and Ducks
Geese are often used for weeding broad-leaved crops as well as to eliminate unwanted pests. They require around 10 square feet of space per bird as well as a shallow water source. Ducks and geese, unlike chickens, prefer sleeping on the ground at night. They are omnivores. Ducks require anywhere about 4 square feet per bird.
Other often raised livestock animals in the United States are llamas, alpacas, mules, donkeys etc. Livestock housing is one of the most important aspects to consider when taking the plunge into this industry. It is necessary to consider their comfort and health when planning housing solutions. Cramped, unventilated, or humid spaces often result in diseases.
Compost bedded pack barns are becoming increasingly popular, especially for poultry as well as cattle. This method serves the needs of the animals while simultaneously producing rich compost for other agricultural purposes. The barns are bedded with compost which is regularly cleaned out and replaced. The activity of the animals enriches the compost bedding which in turn serves as manure for crops.
|Bedding material||Absorption factor*|
|Oat straw||2.4 to 2.5|
|Sawdust||1.5 to 2.5|
|Shavings||1.5 to 2.0|
|* Weight of water held per unit of try material.|
Assumes initial moisture content of bedding < 10%.
|Source: Livestock Bedding Alternatives, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, 1997.|
Permaculture is rising in popularity with global concern over the carbon footprint of the livestock industry. Permaculture is relevant for agriculture as well as livestock farming since it focuses on intelligent solutions for better yields from limited spaces as well as the harmonious coexistence of different beings.