New welfare strategy launched by the UK sheep industry

Farmers, vets, organisations and industry professionals from across the whole sheep industry have joined forces, through Ruminant Health & Welfare (RH&W), to launch the new UK Sheep Welfare Strategy for 2023-2028.

The strategy, which is the first of its kind for the sector, is designed to help the whole industry show progress in sheep welfare by 2028.

RH&W Chair, Gwyn Jones, says it aims to deliver high welfare and encourage the adoption of good practice on all sheep farms across all four nations in the UK – regardless of size, location, or production system.

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“The industry’s shared vision is for the UK sheep sector to demonstrate evidence-based progress in six key areas of sheep welfare over the next five years and beyond,” adds Mr Jones.

​The strategy is the first of its kind for the sector.​The strategy is the first of its kind for the sector.
​The strategy is the first of its kind for the sector.

“Improvements to health and welfare will ultimately result in a more productive and sustainable supply chain, having a positive impact on the sector’s carbon footprint. At a grass roots farm level, it will benefit farmers directly through better productivity, working conditions and positive mental health.”

The six strategic goals in the strategy are healthy feet, appropriate body condition, thriving lambs, collaborative flock management, positive welfare and sheep comfort.

Mr Jones says progress on these six areas is vitally important, as research shows the public expects the delivery of good welfare to include far more than ensuring good health alone.

“UK sheep farmers and the wider industry are in a good position to deliver on both,” he adds.

“The strategy will pave the way for this; however investment will be required for practical methods of reporting progress and the collation of existing data to show improvements.”

National Sheep Association chief executive and RH&W steering group member, Phil Stocker, says it is important for the reputation of the UK sheep sector to continue making progress where welfare is concerned.

He adds: “This strategy will provide great ammunition to drive forward the sector across a wide range of welfare improvements over the next five years including the licensing of analgesics, influencing Government support programmes, and conditions in transport and at slaughter.”