Deputy Director


Kerstin Martens
Institute of Farm Economics

Bundesallee 63
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 5102
Fax: +49 531 596 5199

Future of sheep farming in Germany


Schafhaltung in Deutschland (c) Thünen-Institut/Johan Schütte
(© Thünen-Institut/Johan Schütte)

Future of sheep farming in Germany

Sheep farmers make an important contribution to the preservation and maintenance of landscapes and at the same time produce valuable food and wool. But what is the current state of sheep farming? What types of sheep farms are there in Germany? What are the perspectives and challenges? These questions will be addressed in the project.

Background and Objective

Sheep farming in Germany has been declining since the early 1990s and is facing economic challenges. After years of silence around the sector, sheep regained public and media attention due to the growing wolf population and the increasing threat of wolf attacks. But what is the real situation in German sheep farming at the moment? In order to be able to better evaluate the current situation of sheep farms, this project will first attempt to structure the sheep farming sector by typologizing farms. A typification allows to evaluate trends of change in animal husbandry and to identify important obstacles to productivity. It can also be used to prioritize specific policy measures and as a tool to support advisors in their work with individual farmers.

However, knowledge of the structure of the sector is not sufficient to provide support for policy decisions and, where relevant, for any specific promotion of sheep production. Gaps in information on the economic situation of sheep farms must also be filled. This project aims at closing these gaps in order to identify perspectives and challenges for a future economic sheep production.


Against this background, a survey was carried jointly with the sheep breeding associations to collect physical parameters of sheep farms, such as flock size, area, type of farming and location, as well as the attitudes of sheep farmers with a short questionnaire. The data from this survey are then used to characterize farm types using a cluster analysis. In a second step, case studies are collected for the farm types determined in this way. Within the framework of the case studies, focus groups are conducted to determine important production and economic parameters of typical farms. Subsequently, the economic situation as well as the production costs are analyzed with the model TIPI-Cal. The economic situation of the different farm types will be compared horizontally between the different farm types and in the international context of the agri benchmark network. From these analyses and comparisons it is tried to derive perspectives and strategies for sheep farmers. In the context of this project also analyses of the costs of wolf attacks and herd protection measures in sheep and cattle farming were carried out.

Our Research Questions

- What are the typical sheep farming systems in Germany and how can they be distinguished from each other?

- How can the economic efficiency of the different systems be evaluated in a horizontal and international comparison?

- With which measures can sheep farming be specifically promoted?

Preliminary Results

The survey of farms was conducted from June to September 2019 with the participation of over 400 sheep farmers. Of the completed questionnaires, 362 were fully answered and can be used for the analysis. A publication on the typology of the farms is in preparation. The conducted cluster analysis shows that eight different types of farms can be characterized. Classified according to the purchase form, four types of full-time farms, two types of part-time farms and two types of hobby farms can be distinguished. Distinctive features of the four types of full-time farms are, besides strong differences in farm size, the focus on landscape conservation or meat production as well as the production systems. Time-consuming and labor-intensive husbandry methods, such as site-specific herding and transhumance, are almost exclusively used by the main purchase farms. The part-time and hobby shepherds, on the other hand, mainly use sheep paddocking. The two types of part-time farms each have a stronger focus on meat production than on landscape conservation. They differ however in size, management and production system. The two types of hobby farms differ in the focus on breeding or landscape conservation and in the intensity of production. In September 2020 the collection of case studies begins with the standardized survey procedure of agri benchmark for the evaluation of the economics of the farm types.


Involved Thünen-Partners


4.2017 - 12.2022

More Information

Projekt type:
Project status: ongoing