The national sheep and goat census recorded a total of 3.92 million sheep in Ireland at the end December 2016; an increase of 160,000 on the total numbers recorded for 2015.

Census forms were returned by 92% of the 44,866 registered flock-keepers on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s database.

The results of the census show a continuation in the increase in sheep numbers across the country over the last number of years.

Overall numbers are rising very close to the four million sheep recorded in the first census in December 2005.

The number of flock owners who declared that they actually had sheep in December 2016 was 36,313, which was an increase of 1,059 (approximately 3%) on the previous year.

On average, there were 108 sheep per flock. However, 69% of flocks contain sheep numbers below the average flock size. These figures are similar to those of recent years.

Of the 3.92 million sheep recorded, 2.64 million are breeding ewes over 12 months of age – an increase of 5% compared to 2015.

sheep census map ireland county

According to the sheep census figures, Donegal remains the county with the most sheep, with 495,163 in the county. It is followed by Galway with 434,693 and Mayo at 423,593.

Kerry had the next greatest number of sheep at 321,372. Meanwhile, Limerick and Dublin had the lowest number of sheep, with 23,056 and 25,378 respectively.

Top 10 counties:

  • Donegal – 495,163
  • Galway – 434,693
  • Mayo – 423,593
  • Kerry – 321,372
  • Wicklow – 249,305
  • Roscommon – 191,454
  • Cork – 185,703
  • Meath – 168,771
  • Wexford – 168,447
  • Sligo – 132,845

Due to its high sheep numbers, Donegal also had the greatest number of sheep flocks, with 5,967, followed by Mayo with 4,897.

Dublin had the lowest number of sheep flocks, with 207 flocks recorded.

The census also showed that a total of 7,874 goats were kept in registered herds in Ireland at the end of December 2016. This was a decrease of almost 2,000 (20%) on the figures recorded in 2015.