Clean Livestock Policy for Sheep

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Sheep producers supply animals for slaughter for human consumption. Therefore, as food producers they have an important role to play in presenting clean sheep for slaughter.

The 3 Category System classifies sheep cleanliness as the following:

Key Messages

  • Farmers, hauliers and processors all have a role to play in reducing the risk of food contamination following the transport of livestock.
  • It is important to minimise the food safety risk associated with soiling of fleeces with faecal material.
  • Good hygiene during sheep transport is important to food safety. Cleanliness of the transport vehicle is important to avoid cross-contamination from previous loads and/or from chemical cleaning agents.
  • Unsuitable conditions during transport may   result in lambs being downgraded in the factory to a lower cleanliness category and costing the farmer money.
  • Harmful bacteria such as E. coli 0157, Salmonella and Campylobacter can live in sheep faecal matter. If contamination goes   unnoticed it can cause sever, even fatal disease in humans.
  • Clean sheep at slaughter minimises the risk to human health, contributes to the production of safe meat, and improves the shelf life of product produced. 
  • Wet fleeces can increase the spread of harmful bacteria onto the carcase. Harmful bacteria can spread from dirty bedding in a dirty housing environment.
  • We all have a part to play in producing a safe, quality product.
  • Harmful bacteria found on dirty fleeces such as Clostridium estertheticum and Clostridium gasigenes can be easily transferred to the carcase. These bacteria can easily cause food spoilage costing millions of euro.

Pre-Transport Management

  • Avoid unnecessary mixing of groups.
  • Ensure Sheep are clean and dry.
  • Avoid sudden changes to diet to avoid dietary upsets/scouring.
  • Crutch/dag dirty lambs before transport.
  • House on straw bedding or clean slats.
  • Withdraw feed for min 8 hours, max 12 hours before slaughter. Liaise with processor for   delivery times.
  • Always have clean drinking water available.

Transport Tips

  • Poor transport conditions may result in clean animals becoming contaminated.
  • Vehicles should be well ventilated and roofed where possible.
  • Ensure vehicle is clean, dry and disinfected before loaded.
  • Use absorbent materials on the floor such as straw, shavings or saw dust.
  • Where decks are in use, make sure urine/faeces from higher decks do not soil sheep on lower decks.
  • Ensure vehicles comply with relevant road safety laws and permissible weight limits.
  • For animals transported distances greater than 65 km, use DAFM authorised hauliers only.