Area of Expertise:

A major component of AFBI’s sheep research programme is to improve production efficiency, by improving animal health and performance. To achieve this, novel nutrition, breeding and other management strategies are investigated using our sheep flock at AFBI Hillsborough and AFBI Loughgall. Most of this work is also evaluated at a number of commercial farms across NI, in collaboration with co-research farmers from both lowland and upland production systems.


An additional research area aims to improve environmental sustainability by minimising the impacts of sheep production on the environment.  In particular, we have been developing and evaluating the effects of different management strategies to promote biodiversity and limit the emissions of greenhouse gases.  With almost 60% of breeding ewes in NI found in hill and upland areas, there is an under-exploited role for sheep in managing upland habitats for biodiversity, preventing encroachment by unwanted species, and maintaining the aesthetic value of the countryside.

Working in collaboration

We are collaborating with colleagues from Crops, Grassland and Ecology at AFBI to identify and promote management practices to efficiently utilise these rural resources while maintaining or increasing biodiversity. State of the art facilities at AFBI Hillsborough also enable us to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from sheep production systems and quantify to effects of mitigation strategies.

We also collaborate closely with Food Scientists at AFBI in order to ensure that consumer satisfaction and expectations are not compromised though novel production methods.  This part of our research contributes to enhancing the integrity, quality and resilience of the food supply chain. 

This comprehensive research programme provides the opportunity to monitor and analyse a wide range of data, including animal performance, grazing behaviour, health (notably in terms of internal and external parasite infections), welfare and product quality. Our projects are funded by several organisations including DAERA, AgriSearch, AHDB, LMC and DAFM.