Sheep and the Environment

Every single day of the year, sheep farmers are hard at work across the UK tending to their flocks and carrying out hugely beneficial environmental work, from helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increasing biodiversity, to sequestering carbon from our atmosphere.

Sheep farming is an invaluable tool not only for improving and safeguarding our beautiful countryside, but also for tackling and mitigating against threats such as climate change, flooding and soil degradation. UK sheep farmers are some of the best in the world for these efforts. For example, did you know that the carbon footprint of a kilo of lamb produced in this country is just over half that of the global average? This is thanks to our high standards and efficiency of production methods.

In order to inform the debates relating to the global COP26 conference (1st to 12th November) in Glasgow, NSA is highlighting how, without a more complete analysis of UK sheep farming and the positive role it plays in the fight against climate change, the threat of negative results through alternative land use strategies could become a reality.

While COP26 will understandably primarily focus on carbon emissions and climate change, NSA is stressing how a more holistic approach to sustainability is required if we are to meet environmental, economic and social goals.

The Association is encouraging policy makers not to think of climate change, or nature recovery in isolation but to consider in tandem the protection of natural resources, heritage, rural economies, the health and wellbeing of people, and sustainable and local food production and consumption.

NSA's Countdown to COP26 activity

Five NSA members from across the UK explain how their farming systems work with the environment and communities around them.

John Pawsey, Shimpling Park farms, Suffolk

“Our diverse leys have improved soil health, while flowering legumes are great for pollinators and ground nesting birds. We have so much diverse insect and bird life and take great pride in the knowledge our holistic, low-input system is carbon negative.”  Read more from John here.

Crosby Cleland, Ballynahinch, County Down

“Only rams with proven genetics are used on our farm and we utilise technology to carefully monitor stock performance and to ensure they are efficient. Data helps us track our environmental impact and productivity.” Read more from Crosby here.

Sybil McPherson, Dalmally, Argyllshire

“Sustainably reared lamb, which utilises vegetation from land unsuitable for cultivation, has many desirable outcomes. Native sheep breeds forage and utilise poor quality grazing and enhance all environmental aspects.”  Read more from Sybil here.

Will Rawling, Ennerdale, Cumbria

“Grazing sheep is part of the solution to climate change and can assist with flood mitigation and enhance nature – an ambition of every farmer I know. We have done it for years. We are part of nature. We cannot ignore it or work against it, because natural processes will prevail.”  Read more from Will here.

Caryl Hughes, Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, Clywd

“If sheep farming ceased to exist, community spirit and traditions would be lost. It is the backbone of the community and works in harmony with the environment.”

Check out NSA's webinars on sheep farming and the environment

NSA Breakfast Club - Is shabby the new chic? An exploration of nature recovery on sheep farms . 1st September 2021

NSA Breakfast Club - Forgotten faces: Recognising rural culture within the climate debate . 6th October 2021

COMING SOON:  NSA Breakfast Club - One piece of the global puzzle: The lowdown on what COP26 means for UK sheep farming. 3rd November 2021

Five sheep farmers explain how their farming systems work with the environment and communities around them
Five sheep farmers explain how their farming systems work with the environment and communities around them