SusSheP – Sustainable Sheep Production

European Research Area Network Research Project on Sustainable Sheep Production (SusSheP) involving partners from Ireland, UK, Norway and France. SusShep is a 3 year project which began in April 2017.

Project Summary

The overall aim of SusSheP is to increase the sustainability and profitability of European Sheep Production by addressing key industry focused problems.

Sheep are unproductive (but carbon productive) until they produce their first lamb crop, normally at 2 years of age and, on average, ewes only produce 4 crops of lambs in their lifetime. Despite its importance both from an economic and environmental perspective ewe longevity is not included in sheep breeding indexes across Europe. SusSheP will establish the genetic factors controlling ewe longevity, under different Sheep Production Systems (SPSs) and assess if early life predictors (eg reared as single, twin etc) can be used to predict longevity. Parallel to this, SusSheP will identify the most carbon and labour efficient SPSs under different management systems (eg prolific vs non-prolific sheep breeds) in order to enable the development of strategies to reduce the labour input and carbon hoof print per kg of output.

The breeding of more efficient sheep has been hampered internationally by the lack of sheep artificial insemination, as the only effective method for use with frozen-thawed semen is a laparoscopic procedure, whereby, semen is injected directly into the uterus but this requires veterinary expertise, is welfare unfriendly and sociable unacceptable. The only exception to this is in Norway, in which vaginal deposition of frozen-thawed semen yields good pregnancy rates. Research in Ireland has demonstrated this is due to the breed of the ewe used in Norway, whereby sperm can transverse the cervix in greater numbers than in other breeds, leading to higher pregnancy rates. SusSheP will interrogate the differences across breeds in cervical physiology and its secretions (genes, proteins and glycans) with a view of developing a more sociably acceptable AI method. Finally, through the participation of strategically chosen SME’s, SusSheP will maximise knowledge transfer to industry, farmers and the scientific communities.

Keep up to date on SusSheP progress!

Click here to view tweets from SusShep and here to view the research projects Facebook page.

Take our SusSheP questionnaire!

We need Irish farmers to complete our SusSheP breeding questionnaire. It will take an average of 12 minutes and the results will be of huge value to not only the SusSheP project, but also to the future development of Ireland sheep breeding developments – around AI, labour efficiency, carbon production efficiency and the development of a ewe longevity genetic index for Irish sheep farmers.

Find the survey by clicking on this link

SusSheP annual newsletters

Year 1 newsletter – Click here to download a leaflet launched by SusShep summarising the project aims and activities.

Year 2 newsletter – Click here to view our latest updates (up to August 2019).

Year 3 newsletter – Click here to view our final year 3 newsletter.


EAAP – Dubrovnik, Croatia Aug 2018 – click here for full presentation.

CORAM Seram2 Conference – France Sept 2018 – click here for full presentation.

Who’s involved in SusSheP?

This research project involves a number of different partners across a number of European countries.

Name of OrganisationContactCountry
University of LimerickSean Fair ([email protected])Ireland
TeagascDr. Noirin McHughIreland
Norwegian Association of Sheep & GoatsDr. Inger Anne BomanNorway
INRADr. Xavier DruartFrance
SRUCDr. Claire Morgan DaviesUnited Kingdom
Norwegian University of Life SciencesProf. Annette KrogenaesNorway
Sheep IrelandEamon WallIreland
Maternal Sheep GroupCampbell TweedUnited Kingdom

Linked Projects/Organisations

iSAGE – Innovation for Sustainable Sheep & Goat Production in Europe

FABRE-TP – Farm Animal Breeding & Reproduction Technology Platform

SheepNet – Sharing Expertise and Experience towards sheep Productivity through NETworkingAHDB Challenge Sheep Project

Schedule of work for SusShep

This project will be divided into different Work Packages (WP). These work packages will divide the project into the following key areas

WP1 – Ewe Longevity

WP2 – Labour and Carbon Hoofprint

WP3 – Ewe Breed effects

WP4 – Integration and Validation

WP5 – Dissemination