Launched in November 2023, the UK Sheep Welfare strategy is designed to help the UK sheep sector demonstrate progress in six key areas of sheep welfare over the next five years.

Produced by Ruminant Health & Welfare (RH&W) and supported by industry leaders and organisations across the whole farm to fork supply chain, the strategy is designed to help the UK maintain its status as a global leader in sheep welfare, and potentially enabling UK sheep producers to differentiate their products from those of other countries.

The six strategic goals for sheep welfare are:

•   Healthy feet – reducing lameness for all sheep to improve overall health and welfare by increasing mobility, productivity, and longevity

•   Appropriate body condition – ensuring optimal body condition score to improve resilience to disease and increase fertility, and a breeding female’s ability to rear thriving lambs

•   Thriving lambs – ensuring lambs are born strong and thrive throughout life by providing good nutrition and protection against disease

•   Collaborative flock management – ensuring active collaboration between farmers, vets, and advisers to aid the development of optimal flock health and welfare plans

•   Positive welfare – ensuring all management decisions are made with a focus on welfare and considered through the eyes of the flock

•   Sheep comfort – ensuring every farm has a proactive pain management plan to optimise the comfort of sheep and aid their ability to overcome disease, illness, and/or injury

RH&W has committed to helping the industry publish an annual progress report. The report will capture data evidencing the outcomes achieved by the strategy’s stakeholders, showing the actions taken annually and the progress being made towards achieving the six welfare goals.

National Sheep Association chief executive and RH&W steering group member Phil Stocker explained that it is important for the reputation of the UK sheep sector to continue making progress on welfare. He said: “The sheep industry has largely escaped most of the criticism around animal welfare. Typically, systems are free range, grass based and extensive in nature. However, there’s plenty to do to improve, and by taking a lead and showing responsibility and ownership of animal welfare, we’re taking the issue firmly into our own hands.”

For more information, visit https://ruminanthw.

Photo: Ellie Breach