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Study to identify risk factors associated with welfare outcomes for sheep during and after journeys of short duration - AW0943

The UK has 33 million sheep, which is the largest population in the EU, and has evolved a unique system of production which makes efficient use of pasture. This results in a complex supply chain between hill, upland and lowland areas with numerous, predominantly short (under 8 hour) journeys between types of pasture and to slaughter.

Using the combined expertise within the University of Bristol, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and Cranfield University, this project aims to quantify and define the nature and range of transportations of sheep within the UK and to evaluate them in terms of animal welfare, economic efficiency and environmental consequences.

In the call for this proposal, Defra has asked for the answers to a wide range of questions regarding the UK system of sheep production and the consequent movement of sheep. Specifically:-

'Research is needed to inform policy on the relative welfare impact of different types of journey for sheep, for example those in which animals are transported directly to slaughter from farm, those where animals are transported via a market or those that incorporate multiple pick-ups during the pre-market journey. The focus of the study should be on short journeys (those less than 8 hours).

• Research is required to identify the risk factors associated with welfare outcomes, including long term outcomes where applicable, in order to assess the validity of the definition of a short journey in legislation.
• The study must consider the cost benefits of transport to markets, farms and abattoirs and whether time within a market can be classified as ‘neutral’.
• The results of this study are aimed, amongst other policy issues, to inform the debate on the need for provision of food and water at markets.
• The environmental impact of different journey types should be quantified as well as welfare and economic impacts, to provide a holistic evaluation of the benefits and costs and recommendations for most sustainable options.'

The approach outlined in this proposal addresses all of these questions by combining a) an investigation into the outcome measures from sheep undergoing a range of journey types with b) national data on sheep movements and c) an analysis of the environmental and economic impacts of the different marketing processes. The study will include measurements of behaviour, physiology and other variables for 150 journeys. It will employ sophisticated multi-level statistical modelling using data from the whole study to determine risk factors for sheep welfare and to address specific queries such as the welfare, economic and environmental impacts of multiple pick-ups or transportation via a market.
Objective 1
To identify risk factors within journeys of short duration (less than 8 hours) that are associated with welfare outcomes for sheep. This is to include an analysis of the effect of live auction markets as part of the journey.

Objective 2
To place the results from Objective 1 into context by describing the extent to which the different journey types (with accompanying risk factors) actually take place within the UK.

Objective 3
To integrate the approach and results from Objectives 1 & 2 to evaluate the environmental and economic impact of the different types of journey and to provide a holistic evaluation of the benefits and costs, with recommendations for the most sustainable options.
Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : AW0943 Final report   (648k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2010

To: 2012

Cost: £529,272
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University of Bristol
Environmental Impact              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare