BACKGROUND: Housing sheep in insulated, warm buildings, which is common in Norway, involves high buildings costs, but has not been reported to improve health and performance. Few studies have dealt with the association between housing and management and reproductive performance.Data on housing and management during the indoor period from a questionnaire were merged with herd level data from the Norwegian Sheep Recording System, and the material included 327 sheep flocks. Associations between housing and management factors and reproductive performance were analyzed by means of multivariate regression models and grouped logistic regression.RESULTS: There was no difference in reproductive performance between warm and cold housing. Number of live born lambs born per pregnant ewe was highest in flocks with 10 or less ewes per pen, and lowest in flocks with more than 40 ewes per pen. Rate of barren ewes was lowest, and number of lambs per ewe at the end of the indoor period was highest in flocks where the sheep were regrouped according to number of foetuses (lambs) identified by scanning. A higher total number of lambs born per pregnant ewe and lambs per ewe at the end of the indoor period were found where other available housing facilities or outdoor areas were used in addition to the main housing unit in the lambing season. The rate of stillbirths was lowest on farms where sheep was the only animal production. None of the factors evaluated had any significant association with mortality of live born lambs in the indoor period. Lowest number of lambs per ewe at the end of the indoor period was found on farms where other family members/hired labour were caretakers as compared with the farmer or spouse/cohabitant, and highest numbers were found where caretakers were older than 60 years of age. Reproductive performance was lower in the Spæl Breed than the Norwegian White Sheep.CONCLUSION: Housing systems per se are of minor importance, whereas management practices in the indoor period should be expected to improve reproductive performance.
Simensen, E., Kielland, C., Hardeng, F., & Bøe, K. E. (2014). Associations between housing and management factors and reproductive performance in 327 Norwegian sheep flocks. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 56, 26. https://doi.org/10.1186/1751-0147-56-26