Friday, July 11, 2008
Sheep shelters, cheap shelters
Over on Ravelry someone asked about how to provide shelter where there is no infrastructure. Lots of web surfing a few years ago yielded Hoop houses that we've worked out thru several renditions. At first we built them on frames to haul around as some people do. Maybe it's us, probably it's our terrain and field condition but they began to fall apart; plus dragging them around is a ... drag. So we have evolved to have semi permanent hoop houses in each field. Semi because we can take them apart, permanent because they hold up to wind and sheep.
It all starts with the cattle panel which is 4' high and 16' long of welded wire, this is available at the farm supply store for somewhere in the $16-20 range. The picture on the right up there is of several tied up awaiting use. So you take this 4x 16' panel and raise up the center- the easiest way is to pound 2-3 T posts in the ground and set one 4' end against those posts and push on the other end making the centre rise up; do the same for the second panel. Now is the time to set the other T posts for the opposite side - 2-3 again. With the posts pounded in, the panels will stay put and behave themselves. Then they need to be laced together and you can do that with handy baling twine or electrical zip cords - we have lots of baling twine so that's what we use. You want to do the lacing almost along the entire join because the wind will try to have fun with it.
Now spread your tarp over the structure and tie that down at the grommets with more baling twine. Tie it on one side and then pull tight from the other so that it won't flap much in a wind - this is what really wears a tarp out. More cords can be tied from one side to the other over the top for further wind protection. In order to get the right length of tarp we're forced to get too wide, just run the extra bit underneath and tie like you see here. The final stage is to tie the panel to the posts just below the tarp - lashing it on is all you need to do. In our experience, it is better to set up 2 of these separately rather than make a big long lodge - the sheep just don't use that set up efficiently and several will be out in the rain looking miserable. Also when setting up 2 houses don't put them smack against each other unless you have lots of time extricating lambs - leave a bit of room and no-one will get hurt. Our flock is about 24 and 2 hoop house are just about the minimum necessary, 3 would be nicer. Definitely do the one extra in the winter so that you can feed hay under cover and not have a crush. Each one will cost under $100, the panel last for many, many years and the tarp maybe 2-3, more if you're disciplined to untie it when not in use. We have 2 in every field as we rotate the sheep from meadow to meadow. Shade from trees is far superior, so fence in trees when you can but where there are no trees and for rain protection I haven't found anything cheaper or more versatile than the hoop houses.