Preparatory work for the development of a scientific opinion on the main welfare risks related to the farming of sheep for wool, meat and milk production

welfare, sheep, production, lameness, interdigital dermatitis, scoping review, systematic review
First published in EFSA Supporting Publications
20. Februar 2015
External Scientific Report

The present document has been produced and adopted by the bodies identified above as authors. This task has been carried out exclusively by the authors in the context of a contract between the European Food Safety Authority and the authors, awarded following a tender procedure. The present document is published complying with the transparency principle to which the Authority is subject. It may not be considered as an output adopted by the Authority. The European food Safety Authority reserves its rights, view and position as regards the issues addressed and the conclusions reached in the present document, without prejudice to the rights of the authors


 This report contains the results of a scoping review of sheep welfare studies and a systematic review of the effect of extensive/outdoor/migratory management on lameness compared to intensive/indoor management systems in sheep raised for the production of meat, milk, or wool in Europe. The scoping review allowed identifying and mapping 679 citations relevant to sheep welfare. Those citations were mapped according to the study population, 8 main welfare determinants (management, environment, genetics, nutrition/feeding/watering, behaviour, health, housing, handler traits/human-animal bond) and outcomes. Such mapping supported the WG in identifying gaps of knowledge and data that further led to seeking for experts’ knowledge, as well as to identify areas where a systematic literature process could be performed. The systematic review that followed the scoping review provided evidence that the management system is not associated with the prevalence or risk of lameness. However, higher stocking densities were associated with prevalence or risk lameness. The body of work may appear to be quite small, however, given the difficulties faced by researchers investigating this topic, identifying studies that looked at these factors in a limited region of the world is a reasonable body of work. This is a difficult topic to study as the exposures are variable and the outcomes difficult to measure in production systems as they can occur year round and have numerous causes.

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