news, features, articles and disease information for the sheep industry

All the latest news forSheep | Goats | Llamas | Alpaca


Positive Outlook Despite Marginal Decline in National Sheep Flock

20 May 2014

IRELAND - According to the 2013 National Sheep Census published by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the national flock declined by just under 50,000 sheep, equivalent to a one per cent drop on 2012, according to Declan Fennell from the Meat Division of Bord Bia – Irish Food Board.

Given the difficult circumstances of Winter/Spring 2012-13 and the added complications of Schmallenberg virus, it had been anticipated that national flock would have be back by an order of two to three per cent.

"Thankfully, this did not materialise," said M Fennell.

Key Take Outs

  • Total Sheep Numbers stood at 3,535,802 – back 48,417 head, equivalent to a 1 per cent decline on 2012
  • Breeding Ewe Numbers stood at 2,458,600 – back 15,271 head, a 0.6 per cent fall on the previous year
  • The category of ‘Other sheep’ accounted for the biggest share of the decline in the 2013 Census. Total ‘Other Sheep’ fell by 3 per cent (29,608 head) to stand at 995,633
  • The overall number of flock owners increased by 256 to 34,304
  • The average number of sheep per flock fell by from 105 to 103
  • Together the top five counties of Donegal (13 per cent), Galway (11 per cent), Mayo (10 per cent), Kerry (9 per cent) and Wicklow (7 per cent) accounted for almost 50 per cent of the national sheep flock in 2013

With regards to the 3 per cent decline in the category of ‘Other Sheep’ which included 2013 new season lambs, this was more of a reflection of the strong throughput levels in sheep disposals throughout the June to December period and explains further the reduced carryover of hoggets into 2014.

Promising Outlook

Whilst overall numbers were back marginally on 2012, it does not suggest that the recovery in the national flock has stalled after three consecutive years of growth.

It is in this regard that a 0.6 per cent decline in the number of breeding ewes could be considered as neglible.

Taking into consideration the ideal lambing conditions of Spring 2014, the absence of Schmallenberg and excellent grass growth of recent weeks, all the indicators would suggest a promising season ahead by way of sheep numbers and increased carcase weights.

TheSheepSite News Desk

Our Sponsors


Seasonal Picks

The Intuitive Farmer: Inspiring Management Success