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Sheep industry in Europe & Turkey

Key Notes for health practices for a more productive flock

Sheep Production in Europe and Turkey today, key farm enterprise in many “less favoured areas”

Sheep farming is found in most European countries and is important to the overall output of European agriculture. There are more sheep in Europe than in Australia and New Zealand combined. In Europe there were around 854 000 farms and 85 millions of heads at the last official census in 2013 (Eurostat 2013,) and there is around 190 000 farms and 38.7 millions of heads in Turkey (Turkish Statistical Institute, 2019). However, even the European flock is stabilizing since 2013 with approximately 87 million of heads in 2017 (Institut de l’Elevage 2018), after a regular decrease since 2000, in some areas it reached a critical level for the sustainability of the sheep industry. 

Sheep production, a key role for society

Sheep farming plays a significant role for the maintenance of human population in less favoured areas, mostly due to economic activities directly related to the production of meat or milk and to their support for the local economy.
Sheep farming is also crucial for the provision of key ecosystem services for society: fixing carbon in the soil, nutrient cycling for crop production, etc. Sheep are also involved in the conservation of biodiversity and the prevention of forest fires through low intensity grazing practices and shrub clearing in forest areas. Thus, the presence of sheep contributes to the image of these landscapes and responds to the challenges of food production and agroecology (sustainable economic activity, occupation of landscapes, and respect for the environment).
The future of the sheep farming industry, in Europe and other associated countries, will be heavily influenced by its capacity to respond to several challenges: economics, such as low profitability; environmental changes, in part due to climate change; and new societal expectations.
To address these challenges, animal health and nutrition management are key levers which can be used by farmers:
By making the system more robust, good health and nutrition management are key factors to improve farm resilience and help address future climate change concerns.

Sheep farms, needs for adaptations

Total sheep and breeding female sheep population (million) for each of the countries involved in EuroSheep (Eurostat, 2019; Turkish Statistical Institute, 2019)



Total sheep (million)

Breeding females


Turkey 38.70 26.92
U.K. 21.80 13.53
Spain 15.37 11.00
Italy 7.00 6.09
France 7.11 5.33
Ireland 3.91 2.64
Greece 8.31 6.64
Hungary 1.06 0.78

This post is also available in: Turkish