Sheep Farming


In 2016, there were 5.1 million sheep in Ireland across 36,800 farms, representing an average flock size of 140 sheep per farm. The highest number of sheep was in the West of Ireland with just over 1.4 million, representing more than one quarter of the total national flock (27.3%) (Central Statistics Office, 2018). Sheep numbers are characterised by mountainous terrain and are therefore widely present in counties such as Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Kerry and Wicklow.

Ireland’s sheep numbers tend to be relatively small scale by international standards. For example, there were over 6.67 million sheep in Scotland in 2019, and 27.5 million sheep in New Zealand in 2017, one of the the world's largest exporters of sheep meat.    

Nonetheless, during 2017, Irish exports of sheep meat were estimated at 62,000 tonnes, with a value of approximately €284 million. France is Ireland's main export market sheep meat exports, accounting for approximately one third of total exports in 2017. The UK is also a substantial export market, accounting for almost 19% of exports (Teagasc, 2018).


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