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
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.