Sheep (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB5162)

Feed and Water

    Schedule 1, paragraphs 22-27 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I. 2000 No. 1870) State that:

    • Animals shall be fed a wholesome diet which is appropriate to their age and species and which is fed to them in sufficient quantity to maintain them in good health, to satisfy their nutritional needs and to promote a positive state of well-being.
    • No animals shall be provided with food and liquid in a manner, nor shall such food or liquid contain any substance, which may cause them unnecessary suffering or injury.
    • All animals shall have access to feed at intervals appropriate to their physiological needs (and, in any case, at least once a day), except where a veterinary surgeon acting in the exercise of his profession otherwise directs.
    • All animals shall either have access to a suitable water supply and be provided with an adequate supply of fresh drinking water each day or be able to satisfy their fluid intake needs by other means.
    • Feeding and watering equipment shall be designed, constructed, placed and maintained so that contamination of food and water and the harmful effects of competition between animals is minimised.
    • No other substance, with the exception of those given for therapeutic pr prophylactic purposes or for the purpose of zootechnical treatment shall be administered to animals unless it has been demonstrated by scientific studies of animal welfare or established experience that the effect of that substance is not detrimental to the health or welfare of the animals.

  1. The law requires that sheep should have access to suitable feed in sufficient quantity and sufficient fresh, clean water each day. Ideally, water should be available at all times and most particularly during lactation. It is not acceptable to rely on the water content of feedstuffs, including roots.
  2. The law requires that the diet of sheep should always be adequate to maintain full health and vigour. Sudden changes in the type and quantity of feed should be avoided.
  3. Sheep should be provided with fresh feed, and any which is stale or contaminated should be removed from troughs before more is added. Feed should be palatable and of good quality. It is especially important to dispose of silage which has deteriorated in storage or in the feed trough
  4. Systems involving the use of high intakes of cereal-based diets require a gradual introductory feeding period, during which sufficient roughage or a suitable high-fibre concentrate should also be fed. Care should be taken to prevent individual sheep from gorging by ensuring that there is plenty of trough space available to the flock. In such systems, mineral mixtures should be specifically designed to avoid urinary problems in male animals.
  5. Certain substances, in particular copper, can be harmful to sheep. Compound feeds or mineral preparations which have been prepared for other species should be avoided unless the composition can be assessed as suitable for sheep. Shepherds should be aware of breed variations in susceptibility to copper poisoning.
  6. Sheep farmers and shepherds should consider the state of the flock's dentition when culling. Sheep with poor teeth should preferably be culled. If the sheep are to be retained, they should be provided with food which they can eat without difficulty and their body condition should be carefully monitored.
  7. Arrangements should be made in advance to ensure that adequate supplies of suitable feed and water can be made available to sheep in emergencies, such as severe winter storms or summer drought.


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