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Improving sheep welfare on extensively manged flocks; economics, husbandry & welfare - AW1012

Animal welfare is gaining an increasingly high profile among consumers and policy makers. In a social welfare/public good context, animal welfare carries a high value of which only a small proportion can be returned through the market place through added value of the commodity product. Thus, public intervention on animal welfare issues may provide a basis for future cross-compliance clauses in agricultural support measures. Against this background, the proposed research will; determine and report how economics, husbandry and farmer perceptions interact to lead to management decisions and actions; determine the likely impacts of different management options, particulrly those invloving reduced labour, and finally will determine how welfare can be improved in extensive systems with high sheep to labour ratios.

This research will establish a hierachy of animal welfare actions of greatest benefit to the animal and contrast these with the hierachy of animal welfare actions of greatest benefit to the financial viability of the business. From this, a blueprint of welfare friendly extensive sheep management programmes can be developed for transfer to the sheep industry. Fronm these investigations, areas where policy intervention may improve animal welfare that would otherwise be compromised by enterprise profitability criteria can be identified.
01: To sestablish within 3 yrs a hierarchy of welfaare criteria arising from consumer, animal health and management issues of greatest impact on the animal assessed in animal behaviour terms and economic terms by:
- Describing consumer concerns over animal welfare;
- Collating the current knowledge of the behavioural and physiological responses of different sheep genotypes to a range of acute management procedures.
- Describing the behavioural and physiological responses of sheep to chronic stressors (for example, undernutrition, lameness) and their consequences for normal biological functioning; and
- Identifying, from a sheep`s perspective, which management strategies or what degrees of challenge or accumulations of challenges carry the greatest risk of compromised welfare.

02: To establish, within 3 yrs, the drivers in the man/animal interface used to guide management action and to establish the percieved economic value of welfare maximising actions from the shepherds` point of view thus creating a hierarchy of welfare actions important to business viability by;
- Using focus groups of sheep farmers to determine practical assessments of the inter-relationships between a welfare outcome of carrying out (or failing to carry out) management and husbandry practices and the shepherd's perceptions of the welfare outcome in terms of both the economic impact on the enterprise and the welfare impact on the sheep flock;
- determining practical management options under a range of scenarios associated with different levels of labour input and avaliability in a range of different contexts covering GB's sheep sector; and
- establishing a hierarchial view of welfare outcomes resulting from different management practices from the shepherds' point of view.

03: To provide, at the end of three years, quantifiable data (in terms of labour and other input costs) of management options with welfare and economic outcomes (in terms of flock outputs) by:
-Auditing the husbandry and physical and economic outcomes of one business from each focus group.
04 Within the 3 years of the project to construct a decision support model in a dual currecny of animal welfare and economic returns to evaluate welfare programmes by:
-Drawing together the findings of the above objectives with existing literature and applying them to a bio-economic model of extensive sheep farming systems.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Improving sheep welfare on extensively manged flocks; economics, husbandry & welfare   (280k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2002

To: 2005

Cost: £449,368
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Scottish Agricultural College, Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, ADAS UK Ltd.
Animal Welfare              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare