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HomeFarming News2022 sheep numbers down 14,000 – DAFM census returns
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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2022 sheep numbers down 14,000 – DAFM census returns

The 2022 census returns show a total of 4.01 million sheep were kept across 42,215 active registered flocks in the country at the end of December 2022, according to a report from the DAFM (Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine).

Of those respondent active herds, sheep were kept on 35,555 at the time of the census.

According to the DAFM, the 2022 sheep population shows a decrease of approximately 14,000 – 0.35% – on total numbers recorded in the previous December 2021.

2022 was the first year since 2018 to record a decrease in the national sheep flock.

However, the 2022 population remains over 4 million and at the second highest level in recent years after 2021.

The DAFM issued sheep census forms to 48,625 sheep keepers, which included approximately 1,700 sheep flocks either newly approved by the DAFM in 2022 or re-activated to keep sheep during the year.

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The DAFM received responses from 42,213 herds, or from 87%, to which 35,555 flocks kept sheep and 6,659 flocks kept no sheep at the time of the census.

Key findings:
  • Approximately 2.66 million breeding ewes over 12 months of age, a decrease of almost 36,000 on the previous year’s breeding ewe population;
  • 85,802 breeding rams recorded – a decrease of over 400 on the previous year;
  • 26 million other sheep were recorded (including lambs, wethers, cull ewes) – a category which increased by over 22,000 in 2022;
  • Number of registered holdings keeping sheep decreased by over 600 from 2021 to 35,555;
  • Overall, the greatest number of sheep was in Donegal, with a sheep population of 541,063;
  • Limerick recorded the fewest number of sheep – 21,727 – just 0.5% of the total population;
  • 7% (1,874,117) of the total population are classified as mountain/mountain-cross breeds;
  • 5% of all sheep recorded (2,136454) were classified as lowland/lowland-cross breeds;
  • Greatest number of mountain sheep kept in Mayo with 229,260;
  • Greatest number of mountain-cross sheep kept in Donegal with 112,829;
  • Smallest number of lowland sheep kept in Dublin – 5,588;
  • Smallest number of lowland-cross breeds – 5,566;
  • Average flock size of 113 compared to 2021 figure of 111;
  • A total of 69% of flocks – 24,541 – kept fewer than the national average.

Total Sheep Numbers – Dec 2012 to December 2012 [Source – DAFM]

  • 2012 – 3,579, 219;
  • 2013 – 3,530, 802;
  • 2014 – 3,581, 818;
  • 2015 – 3,760, 425;
  • 2016 – 3,918, 025;
  • 2017 – 3,874, 898;
  • 2018 – 3,732, 955;
  • 2019 – 3,809, 368;
  • 2020 – 3,877, 222;
  • 2021 – 4,024, 727;
  • 2022 – 4,010, 571.
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