Download the SusSheP factsheet pdf

Sustainable sheep production 

Challenge - Sheep have a relatively short productive life and the identification of the genetic factors controlling ewe longevity (EL), under different Sheep Production Systems (SPSs) would facilitate breeding for healthier sheep. Sheep genetic improvement schemes across Europe are hampered due to low pregnancy rates that result from cervical insemination with frozen-thawed semen. The exception is in Norway and the challenge is to identify the reasons why cervical artificial insemination (AI) works well in Norwegian ewe breeds but not other European breeds. In addition, there is a requirement to develop strategies to reduce the labour input and carbon hoof print per kg of output.

Objectives - The overall aim is to increase the sustainability and profitability of European sheep production, by addressing key industry focused problems to better understand fundamental mechanisms influencing on-farm efficiencies.

Expected results - SusSheP will establish the genetic factors controlling EL, under different SPSs and assess if early life predictors can be used to predict EL. Parallel to this, the most carbon and labour efficient SPSs will be identified. Another objective is to interrogate differences across breeds in cervical physiology and its secretions with a view of developing a sociably acceptable AI method.

Potential Impact - The focus lies on genetics, animal welfare and ethical breeding practices, while being cognisant of labour input and the economics of SPSs. Through the participation of strategically chosen SMEs, the knowledge transfer to industry, farmers and scientific communities is maximised.

Coordinated by: Dr. Sean Fair - University of Limerick (IRELAND) - Contact

Funded by: DAFM/Teagasc, ANR, RNC, Maternal Sheep Group and DEFRA as part of the ERA-NET Cofund SusAn through a virtual common pot model including EU Top-Up funding from the European Union´s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no 696231)

4 research partners:

  • FRANCE: Institut National de Recherche Agronomique
  • IRELAND: Sheep Ireland and Teagasc
  • NORWAY: The Norwegian Association of Sheep and Goat Breeders and Norwegian University of Life Science
  • UNITED KINGDOM: Scotland’s Rural College and Maternal Sheep Group

More information

This project has been funded by DAFM/Teagasc, ANR, RCN and DEFRA as a part of the ERA-Net Cofund SusAn (grantnr 696231) through a virtual common pot model with EU top-up.