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Back to Research & Development

Shade and shelter project

The impact of shade and shelter on sheep reproduction and welfare

Heat stress exposed ewes and rams can have reduced fertility and impaired foetal development and lower lamb survival. Likewise, cold stress will increase the mortaility rate of newly shorn sheep and newborn lambs. Extreme climatic variation (wind, rain and temperature) poses a significant stress on extensively-managed sheep. Shade and shelter minimise heat and cold stress to improve the production and welfare of sheep as well as having amenity values and other benefits for pasture production and biodiversity.

Through two new projects, under the Sheep Reproduction Strategic Partnership, MLA alongside The University of Western Australia, Murdoch University and a number of other industry partners will investigate and develop interventions to reduce the impact of climatic variation on sheep enterprises.




















Investigating heat stress in ewes

  • This project aims to quantify the effects of heat events on sheep reproduction, thermoregulatory capacity, behaviour and wellbeing through long term-data collectionwhile the sheep will be exposed to a range of climatic conditions in diverse production settings. Outcomes of this research may be used to inform management strategies to minimise the impact of heat stress on reproductive performance.
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Inserting intra ruminal temperature loggers into ewes to monitor internal temperature and compare to ambient temperature

Ewes fitted with GPS, activity and proximity loggers during joining


Design, establishment and benefits of edible shelter to improve lamb survival and whole-farm profitability

  • This project will investigate the impacts of different types of edible shelter on the physiology, behaviour, welfare and survival of sheep, along with the nutritional benefits of the feedbase in mixed farming enterprises at 30 research sites. Outcomes from the research will inform recommendations for the shelter in sheep enterprises.


Core activities


A baseline on the current use of shade and shelter will be established, and motivations for adoption will be identified from this survey. The information gathered will be used to inform the experimental work to be completed for our research program.

Shade and Shelter Survey
Shelter and lamb survival EOI


Workshops will be conducted in four regions (two in WA and two in NSW). The workshops will provide stakeholders with key messages from a literature review assessing the use and benefits of shelter for grazing sheep, outcomes of the survey, pre-experimental modelling and sensitivity analysis, and a discussion forum around adoption.


Investigating the impacts of heat stress of ewes on reproductive performance: The aim of this experiment is to quantify the effects of heat events on sheep reproduction, thermoregulatory capacity, behaviour, and wellbeing through long-term data collection.

Shrub design and management: The aim of this experiment is to establish four sites that incorporate different aspects of shelter, including density, configuration, edible versus non-edible species, and the impact on microclimate at a spatial scale on lamb survival and ewe and lamb wellbeing over two years.


Anameka and Rhagodia planted in 2021 at one site in Pingelly

Ewe and lamb physiology: The aim of this experiment is to investigate the impact of three shelter options at lambing on body temperature, utilisation of shelter, and behaviour of the ewes and lambs.

Crop height (2022): This experiment will compare the survival of twin lambs born in paddocks with crop at different height (high ≈30cm, medium ≈20cm, and low ≈10cm) It further aims to assess grazing behaviour, activity, and utilisation of shelter by ewes.

Shelter and lamb survival: This experiment will compare the survival of twin lambs to marking when born in a paddock with shrubs or crop compared to the best pasture lambing paddock on the farm. A total of 28 on-farm research sites will be established over three years in WA and NSW.

Keep up to date with the latest project progress 

Modelling – systems integration:

The biophysical and economic outcomes of edible shelter for lambing will be evaluated using CSIRO’s farm systems modelling software (AusFarm and GrassGro software).

How to get involved:

Shade and Shelter Survey

Shelter and lamb survival EOI

Contact us:




Project Section

Dr Serina Hancock

Murdoch University

Industry engagement, Crop height,  shelter and lamb survival

Dr Dominque Blache

University of Western Australia

Investigating heat stress in ewes – reproductive performance, Ewe and lamb physiology

Dr Hayley Norman


Industry engagement, shrub design and management, nutrition, farming systems modelling

Dr Gordon Refshauge


Industry engagement, Crop height,  shelter and lamb survival