The Management of Sheep

  • P.J. Goddard
Part of the Animal Welfare book series (AWNS, volume 6)


The processes used to manage sheep in the broadest sense and the way these are perceived by the sheep will have a critical impact on the welfare of individual animals. While these impacts may be difficult to assess and more difficult to quantify, it is clear that the skilled stockperson has the ability to reduce the impact of some of the negative experiences that potentially aversive procedures – individual handling or transportation for example – may engender. There are additional challenges both to evaluate the perception of animals of long-term or chronic challenges in comparison with short-term, acute events and to reconcile the welfare of individuals with that of the flock as a whole. The importance of the human-animal relationship as a defined component of stockmanship is being more widely recognised. Selection and training of stockpersons will become increasingly important, yet identification and assessment of the complete range of desirable characteristics may not be easy. Mechanisms to reward those responsible for livestock – drivers of livestock vehicles for example – on the basis of animal welfare outcomes rather than work efficiency goals should be encouraged. Different management systems may expose sheep to different amounts of human contact. Where such contact is limited the reactivity of sheep to individual management procedures may be greater. Selection of breeds, or individuals within breeds, which are more tolerant of a reduced level of handling may be one way to deliver welfare benefits in the future, since it is hard to envisage an alternative situation where adequate adaptive experiences which modulate the sheep’s reactivity could be provided under practical farming conditions. As the needs of sheep become better understood there is greater opportunity to fit the system to the animals. There are specific management situations where considerable research effort has delivered the potential to improve welfare – transport for example – and where legislation has been enacted to enforce higher standards. There are also a number of situations (castration for example) where a review of what is considered a routine activity, based on a cost: benefit assessment, may be valuable. Current moves towards more extensive or ranched management systems reinforce the need to ensure that well-adapted breeds are selected which are appropriate to the environment and that stockpersons have the skills needed to work with the sheep under these conditions and keep welfare considerations in the forefront of their mind.


Welfare Management Cost-benefit Stockmanship 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • P.J. Goddard
    • 1
  1. 1.Macaulay InstituteCraigiebucklerUK

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