Sheep Welfare: A Future Perspective

  • A.B. Lawrence
  • J. Conington
Part of the Animal Welfare book series (AWNS, volume 6)


There is every indication that animal welfare will continue to be a major issue affecting livestock farming in the future. At the same time sheep farming is under pressure worldwide to become a lower-input farming enterprise. The drive to lower inputs and, in particular, restrictions on labour could have important implications for animal welfare by reducing levels of care and perhaps altering the traditional human-animal ‘contract’. In addition, climate change will impose further challenges, such as altering the range of parasites, increasing environmental stress and through exposure to more extreme weather. Science and technology have important roles to play in maintaining and improving welfare under these scenarios. Animal breeding, for example, can be used to breed for health and welfare traits such as increased resistance to the disease, improved lamb survival and appropriate adjustments in behavioural temperament. New developments in breeding also open up possibilities of selecting for ‘robustness’ or increased adaptation to a range of environmental conditions. Objective approaches to assess animal welfare can be used both to provide farm assurance about animal welfare, but also as management tools by farmers to identify welfare issues and to train stockpeople in the recognition of poor welfare. Lastly, use of sensor technologies provide the potential for remote monitoring of welfare in extensively managed animals, such as sheep, to replace more traditional shepherding.


Human-animal contract Climate change Animal breeding Robustness Disease resistance Welfare assessment Technology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • A.B. Lawrence
    • 1
  • J. Conington
  1. 1.Sustainable Livestock Systems GroupSACEdinburghUK

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