From 2015, the collection of sheep data from the December Survey was combined with that for the Sheep and Goat Annual Inventory ( SGAI). This causes two issues for the data which mean that comparisons with previous years should be made with caution:
- A different set of categories, meeting the minimum requirements of both surveys, means a break in the time series for the detailed data. While the categories were chosen so that four broad groupings remained comparable, it is clear from the results that this change has unreliably affected these data. This does not however affect the total.
- The slightly wider coverage of the SGAI resulted in an increase in the total number of sheep recorded.
While the total obtained from the 2015 survey was considered reliable, there appeared to have been some confusion around the categories. Attempts were made to clarify definitions in both 2016 and 2017, with the resulting data looking more in line with previous years.
In 2017, there were
- 4.91 million sheep on holdings in Scotland. This was a reduction of 2.7 per cent and 0.6 per cent above the ten year average of 4.88 million.
- 1.58 million lambs, 14 per cent down on last year. This was seven per cent less than the average number between 2008 and 2017 of 1.70 million
- 2.94 million ewes and lambs used for breeding in 2017/18. This was similar to the average number between 2008 and 2017 of 2.96 million
Chart 7 : Lambs and breeding flock numbers, June and December, 2007 to 2017
The reported breakdown of sheep numbers, particularly those for lambs, was considered unreliable in 2015.