There are approximately 7.4 million sheep on approximately 13,600 holdings in Scotland.  Sheep farming is found throughout Scotland and is the dominant agricultural activity in many of the hill and upland areas.

Sheep are typically reared outdoors on grass and only brought inside for lambing, although lambing can and does take place outdoors. The main lambing period is in spring and typically most lambs are sold by the autumn. During the winter months when grass growth declines,  supplementary feeding is provided, usually with hay or silage.

There are a number of issues relevant to Sheep farming, among them:

Sheep dip

Sheep dipping plays an important role in the maintenance of good animal welfare, and combined with other good flock management techniques, is commonly used to control ectoparasites such as sheep scab. SEPA is involved in the Scottish Sheep Scab Industry working group and the UK sheep dip pollution reduction programme, to ensure that environmental issues are addressed. 

Due to the acutely toxic nature of the chemicals involved, both organophosphates (OP) and synthetic pyrethroid (SP) dips in small quantities can be sufficient to wipe out aquatic life in surface waters for considerable distances. SP dips are 100 times more toxic in the aquatic environment than OP dips and as a result have come under particular scrutiny. SP dips are not currently available on the market – further information is available from the VMD website external link

Surface waters and groundwater are interlinked and the contamination of one can seriously affect the quality of the other. Groundwater can become contaminated through interaction with contaminated surface waters or via the infiltration of spilt or waste dip through the soil.The effects can be long lasting and have implications for both environmental quality and for the subsequent use of water, e.g. a drinking water supply.

Due to the toxic nature of sheep dip chemicals, an authorisation under the Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) must be held prior to the disposal of waste sheep dip to land. The authorisation will identify an area of land where disposal can take place and will contain conditions to prevent pollution occurring from the disposal activity. Authorisations can be applied for at local SEPA offices.

There are a number of potential routes whereby sheep dip chemicals can enter the water environment. It is important to consider these in order to manage the pollution risks that sheep dipping can pose. There are three main sources; the sheep dipping facility; the treated sheep themselves and the disposal of the waste dip.

The PEPFAA Code external link and the Sheep Dipping Code of Practice pdf link (264k) contain advice on how to prevent pollution by sheep dip chemicals.

Sheep Dipping Code of Practice for Scottish Farmers, Crofters and Contractors

The Sheep Dipping Code of Practice pdf link (264k) provides straightforward guidance on pollution prevention and good practice aimed at all involved in any aspect of sheep dipping. The code describes the legislative requirements and offers guidance on managing the pollution risks posed by sheep dips and complying with the relevant regulations.

Carcass disposal

The disposal of animal carcasses on farms can pose risks to the environment as well as to human and animal health.  

There are a number of options for cacass disposal on a farm. In order to protect the environment and the welfare of the public, the Animal By-Products (Scotland) Regulations 2003, state that disposal should be via an approved route, to rendering, incineration or to the National Fallen Stock Scheme external link. More details can be found at: Animal By-Products (Scotland) Regulations 2003 external link.

In some designated areas of Scotland, on-farm disposal is permitted if no alternative disposal route is available. The PEPFAA code external link provides guidance on the safe disposal of animal carcasses on farms.