Changing the future of food and farming

Assessing the sustainability of sheep and goat farms in Europe

The original Public Goods tool (PGT) was designed by ORC as an on-farm assessment tool for monitoring public good delivery and sustainable practices. It incorporated 11 themes representing holistic sustainability, with each theme containing a suite of indicators. The tool was developed at ORC in 2010, in response to requests from farmers for a simple way of assessing the sustainability of their farms. Collaborative efforts from stakeholders, farmers, industry members and researchers shaped the tool, leading to the development of a cohesive set of indicators for assessing public good delivery on organic farms in the UK.

The EU Horizon 2020 funded research project, Innovation for sustainable sheep and goat production in Europe (iSAGE) used the PGT to identify current strengths and weaknesses in the sustainability performance of sheep and goat farms in seven countries (Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, UK and Turkey).

To ensure the PGT catered to the needs of the iSAGE project, further development of the original version was required. The inclusion of additional themes was a joint effort between researchers and members of the iSAGE consortium. Discussion centered around the necessity to define animal health and animal welfare sections, as iSAGE was a livestock project, a better understanding of socio-economic performance and the inclusion of governance. It has been recognized that without good governance it is hard to encourage and maintain sustainability and the inclusion of this theme brought the tool into closer alliance with the FAO’s SAFA Guidelines. This process of adaptation led to the splitting of the original animal health and welfare theme into two and the inclusion of a governance theme (Table 1). With the development of new themes came the requirement for more indicators associated with the themes, these were defined with input from the consortium and researchers. Further details of the development can be found here.

Table 1:

In the iSAGE project the tool was used to identify sustainability trends on individual sheep and goat farms. The results were then amalgamated to gain an understanding of the sustainability of the sheep and goat industry and to look at the sustainability of the type of farming system pursued, i.e. dairy, meat production or dual purpose. In all, 206 farms were assessed across Europe and Turkey. The results of the assessments were visualised in radar diagrams such as the one shown below. A score of 1 indicates poor performance while a score of 5 indicates good performance within a particular theme, depicting strengths and weaknesses within current sustainability performance.

The application of the PGT within the project has been summarized in a number of iSAGE newsletters, linked below and the full project results will be available on the website, https://www.isage.eu/ shortly.

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