COUNTRY REPORT ON SHEEP AND GOAT HUSBANDRY IN
Niźnikowski, R. Martyniuk, E.
Kuźnicka, E. Department of Genetics and Animal Breeding
Sheep and Goat Breeding Unit
Warsaw Agricultural University, Poland
In the beginning of the 1980s the development of sheep husbandry in Poland should be considered as a
dynamic one. The sheep population was increasing rapidly due to the subsidized anti-import wool production as
well as the growing importance of lamb exports to the west. Such a situation resulted in almost five-million sheep
in 1986, the population being the highest in the post-war history of Polish sheep husbandry. Since 1987, the
number of sheep in Poland was, at first very declining slowly; after 1990 there was a more rapid decrease and in
1996 only 11.05 percent of the sheep population size of the year 1986 was left.
Goat breeding in Poland before the year 1982 practically did not exist. The performance recording of this
species was officially introduced in 1983. In June 1996 goats were, for the first time, included into the national
census of farm animals. By then, the published statistical analysis had not taken into consideration that particular
species, thus giving the clear account of the situation concerning the goat breeding is still difficult.
The development of sheep husbandry in Poland in the beginning of the 1980s should be
considered as a dynamic one. The sheep population was increasing rapidly due to the
subsidized anti-import wool production as well as the growing importance of lamb export to
the west. Such a situation resulted in almost five-million sheep in 1986, the population being
the highest in the post-war history of Polish sheep husbandry. Since 1987, the number of
sheep in Poland was at first declining very slowly, then after 1990, there was a more rapid
decrease; in 1996 only 11.05 percent of the sheep population size of the year 1986 was left.
Goat breeding in Poland before the year 1982 practically did not exist. The performance
recording of this species was officially introduced in 1983. In June 1996 goats were, for the
first time, included into the national census of farm animals. By then, the published statistical
analysis had not taken into consideration that particular species, thus giving the clear account
of the situation concerning the goat breeding is still difficult.
In this report, the production costs as well as sheep and goat product prices are given in
Polish zlotys (PLN). The current price of US$1 amounts to 3.50 PLN, while 1 ECU equals
about 4.05 PLN.
Sheep and goat population size and farm structure
The Figure 1 presents the dramatic fall in sheep numbers which has been rapidly
progressing since the 1990s. The main reason for such a situation was firstly the lack of
profitability of wool production and, secondly, the breakdown of the public sector in Polish
agriculture which resulted in slaughtering many flocks belonging previously to the state farms.
5 000 000
4 500 000
4 000 000
3 500 000
3 000 000
2 500 000
2 000 000
1 500 000
1 000 000
1986 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996
Total population Ewes Ewes in flock books Recorded
Figure 1. Distribution of total sheep population, number of ewes under recording scheme and
ewes registered in flock books in years 1990 -1996 in comparison with 1986
In 1996, the total sheep number was estimated as 551 570 and the ewe number as 350 062.
The performance recording was carried out in 143 527 sheep (41 percent of total population),
and 115 872 ewes (33 percent of total population) were registered in flock books.
In June 1996, there were 179 316 goats kept in Poland, including 102 659 females. Only
4 762 animals of this species were covered by performance recording, and 1 967 were entered
into herd books. The extremely small number of goats undergoing performance recording (4.6
percent) in comparison to a considerable size of total goat population, reflects an initial stage
of development and organization of breeding of this species.
According to the assessment of the Polish Sheep Breeders Association there were about
3 500 commercial and 2 000 pedigree sheep flocks in Poland in 1997. In goats, there are no
such statistics available because of considerable dispersion of goat population where small
groups or single animals are often kept on farms. However, all goats under a recording scheme
at the end of 1996 were kept in 223 herds, out of which 93.3 percent were private.
According to the last analysis of the Polish Sheep Breeders Association, dated September
1997, the average size of a commercial flock amounts to 35 sheep and of a pedigree one to 70,
while the average flock size equals 48 sheep. In comparison, the average size of a goat herd
included in the recording scheme in 1996 consisted of 21.3 heads. We have not got any data
pertaining to the size or the number of commercial goat herds so far.
At present most sheep, 77.4 percent of the total population, are kept on individual private
In 1996, the structure of sheep farm size was as follows:
Farm size in 1.01-4.99 5.00-5.99 10.00-14.99 15.00-19.99 20.00-49.99 50.00 and
percent of 26.29 19.07 13.66 10.57 20.36 10.05
According to data of the Polish Sheep Breeders Association of October 1996, the structure
of pedigree and commercial flocks goes as follows:
Sheep number up to 49 50-99 100 and more
Pedigree flocks 64.5% 23.7% 11.8%
Commercial flocks 85.2% 8.9% 5.9%
Total population 78.6% 13.7% 7.7%
As it is shown above, the majority of sheep flocks consists of less than 50 heads. The
relatively big flocks, over 100 animals, are more often found within an active population than
a commercial one.
There is no information available with regards to sizes of goat farms. The structure of goat
herds is very difficult to characterize as well. However, it can be said that most of milking
goats are kept in the vicinity of big cities, to utilize easy access to the market. Quite often,
single animals are kept in the household to provide milk for self-consumption. More
numerous herds are rarely encountered.
Breed structure in sheep and goats
The sheep population consists of 21 breeds, 7 synthetic lines as well as prolific crossbreds
and backcrosses (Table 1). Out of all sheep breeds the following ones are most important and
their share in the total population is as follows:
Merino sheep 40.6 percent,
Polish Lowland sheep 29.6 percent,
Polish Longwool sheep 9.3 percent,
Polish Mountain sheep 6.2 percent,
Meat breeds 8.2 percent.
Most of sheep kept in Poland represent the dual purpose - wool and meat - type. The
increasing number of synthetic lines and meat breed, as well as prolific crossbreds, shows a
tendency to transform sheep stock into sire and dam breeds.
Among the goat population kept in Poland seven breed groups and two groups of
crossbreds can be distinguished. The respective share of different breeds in the total goat
population is presented below:
White Improved 70.5 percent,
White Unimproved 2.8 percent,
Fawn Improved 3.9 percent,
Fawn Unimproved 5.5 percent,
Sanaen 9.4 percent,
Alpine 5.8 percent,
Toggenburg 1.6 percent.
The most often maintained crossbreds are White Improved x Boer (0.3 percent) and White
Improved x Anglonubian (0.2 percent). At present, the goat population in Poland is still being
formed. That is why the population is divided into breed groups on the basis of coat colour,
white and fawn. However, the major contribution of the White Improved breed indicates milk
as a target purpose of goat utilization in our country.
Table 1. Distribution of ewes of different breeds , types and varieties entered into flock books
Breed or type of sheep Heads % Variety or breed Heads %
Merinos 47 062 40.6 Polish or German Merino 46 902 99.7
Black Merino 160 0.3
Total 47 062 100.0
Polish Lowland Sheep 34 255 29.6 in Wielkopolska type 6 057 17.7
in Corriedale type 733 2.1
remaining Polish Lowland Sheep 27 465 80.2
Total 34 255 100.0
Polish Longwool Sheep 10 730 9.3 in Pomorska type 5 673 52.9
in Kamieniec type 2 076 19.3
in Pogorze type 1 821 17.0
remaining Polish Longwool Sheep 1 160 10.8
Total 10 730 100.0
Breeds of coarse wool 8 215 7.1 Polish Mountain Sheep 7 123 86.7
Polish Heath Sheep 1 092 13.3
Total 8 215 100.0
Purebred Longwool breeds 419 0.4 Romney Marsch 133 31.7
Leine 286 68.3
Total 419 100.0
Prolific breeds 554 0.5 East Friesian 296 53.4
Finn 78 14.1
Booroola 33 6.0
Olkuska Sheep 100 18.1
Romanov 47 8.5
Total 554 100.0
Meat breeds 9 518 8.2 Texel 89 0.9
Ile de France 2 886 30.3
Blackhead Mutton Sheep 3 229 33.9
Suffolk 1 758 18.5
Berrichone de Cher 1 459 15.3
Dorset Horn 34 0.4
Hampshire 9 0.1
Charolaise 54 0.6
Total 9 518 100.0
Synthetic lines 2 292 2.0 Whiteheaded Mutton Sheep 594 25.9
Blackheaded Mutton Sheep 130 5.7
Meat line in Berrichone type 827 36.1
Meat line in Dorset type 150 6.5
Prolific lines 355 15.5
Prolific-meat line 186 8.1
Prolific-wool line 50 2.2
Total 2 292 100.0
Production system, utilization purposes and market of goat and sheep
Considering production systems in sheep husbandry in Poland, the intensive production has
been located in two regions only: Wielkopolska and Kujawy. Both regions have got about 27
percent of the total sheep population. The rest of the sheep are kept in conditions close to
extensive ones. The semi-intensive system, which was typical in 1980s, is not used any longer
due to the high costs of concentrates.
In goats a small scale, backyard system is dominant. It is often connected with the
exploitation of occasional pastures and purchase of feed. Bigger milking herds are kept in
more intensified conditions with the usage of farm-produced fodder and grain. On some goat
farms, which are often experimental research farms, milk processing has been carried out, so
animals are kept in intensive conditions and goat production is fully connected with field
production. However, only a small percentage of goats are used in such a system.
Meat production is the main goal in sheep husbandry in Poland. The lack of a domestic
market for lamb and mutton and, in the same time, opportunities to export, has led to regard
slaughter lambs as the main sheep product. In the year 1996, 369 000 heads were sold for
foreign markets (the Italian and Spanish market - prime lambs, the Arabic countries - culled
ewes and rams). There have been some attempts to initiate carcass export to the west. A new
slaughterhouse, especially for sheep and in accordance with the EU requirements, was built in
Lesko. However, the effort to introduce carcass export on a larger scale has failed. The export
of slaughter lambs is subject to the EU quota on sheep meat, granted annually. Due to an
extremely low sheep number the quota has been used only 50 percent in recent years. In
Poland a very small number of animals are intended for home market and mostly for the
household consumption at farms. The lack of lamb appreciation, traditional in Polish society,
as well as its high price, if available on the market, results in a very low consumption sheep
meat per capita - 0.5 kg only.
Meat production is considered as a leading one because the output coming from selling
lambs amounts to 95 percent of total income in commercial flocks. The current prices of
lambs for slaughter range from 5.1 to 8.8 PLN for 1 kg of live body weight depending on the
conformation and the body weight standard. In the case of culled adult sheep the price varies
from 1.7 to 1.9 PLN per 1 kg. Sheep milk is a product which may increase in importance. The
tradition of keeping dairy sheep is the strongest in the Podhale region (The Karpaty
Mountains). In the south of Poland sheep milk is processed and sold as dairy products, not as
a raw milk. It is usually used to produce hard smoked cheese (so called oszczypek) as well as
white soft cheese (named bundz and bryndza). As a by-product, whey (also called rzentyca) is
obtained. Oszczypek cheese it is the most popular sheep dairy product in Poland; at the market
it is sold at the price of 14 to 18 PLN per kilo. There are also attempts to develop sheep milk
production in the lowlands as well as to initiate the production of soft cheese, sheep yoghurt
and smoked cheese, in oszczypek type, like in the highlands.
Sheep wool has completely lost its importance, because of very low prices and lack of
production subsidies, which were applied in Poland till 1989. Now, wool provides only 5-10
percent of the outputs in sheep production. In 1996, 1900 tonnes of greasy wool were
produced, which meant that average wool yield was about 3.4 kg per sheep. Right now wool
is regarded as a by-product and is purchased at the price of 3.5 to 3.8 PLN for 1 kilo on the
greasy-wool basis, depending on the commercial quality type.
In pedigree flocks, the important source of income comes from selling the breeding stock.
By the year 1996, the income from selling breeding rams was of significant importance,
because of state subsidies available for the purchase of pedigree rams. Since 1997, when the
new breeding programme was introduced and the subsidy system changed, the demand for
female breeding material has increased. The average price of ewe-lamb for breeding sold at
the market was about 110 PLN.
The home-produced sheep skins stopped being widely used, mostly because of live lamb
export and, at the same time, withdrawing from skin re-import. The demands of the tannery
industry are fulfilled by sheep skin import, mostly from Great Britain. At present, because of
small sheep numbers, it would not be possible to satisfy industry demands with home skin
production. The average price of raw skins bought by tannery workshops varies from 5 to 20
PLN for one piece, depending on the size and quality.
Goat milk, sold after pasteurization, is the leading goat product on the market. There are
also dairy products available, mainly soft white cheese and yoghurt. The price of goat milk is
relatively high in comparison to the price of cow milk because of its nutritional value,
especially in the diet of children affected by allergies. In Poland, the price of goat milk is on
average four times higher than the price of cow milk and, in big city agglomerations in 1994-
96, surpassed it even eight times. There is an analogy in establishing prices on goat milk and
its products, which are treated as delicacies and sold mainly in big cities. Goat meat
production has not been of much importance. The high price of goat milk does not encourage
buck rearing, so they are usually slaughtered at the age of two to three weeks and used mainly
for self-consumption at farms. There are rare cases of selling kids for export, but they have
little economic meaning. The goat skin production has no economic importance. Although
there is not much trade of pedigree stock because of a small number of goats under
performance recording, the demand for breeding females for commercial herds is very high.
The market price of a goat for breeding ranges from 150 to 250 PLN per head.
Status of property and sources of labour
The system of employment
Most sheep breeders run their own farms. In such a case the whole family works on the
farm. Big farms often employ permanent workers; in many farms during the vegetation
season, especially at harvest, there are also additional hands required and employed on a wage
basis. For workers employed in state farms a specific collective employment agreement is
applied. In co-operatives, the work agreement is based on the rules given in the co-operative
In highlands, a specific system of sheep leasing is traditionally implemented. The sheep
owner rents out ewes from his own flock for the grazing season to a professional senior
shepherd (so called baca). The milk obtained in this period is treated as a payment for taking
care of sheep at highland pastures.
In goat husbandry the most common farm is a family farm. Extra people are hired for work
in big herds or in cases where milk is processed at the farm for commercial scale.
Poland is one of a few European countries in which the private sector has always
constituted the majority of farms. In the year 1996, 91.2 percent of farming land belonged to
private owners. The highest participation of a private sector in the total area of agricultural
land is noted in the central part of Poland and amounts to over 98 percent. The public sector
embraces only 8.8 percent of agricultural land, mostly in the area of northern and western
In the private sector, the arable land comprises 65 percent, whereas meadows and pastures
make-up18.2 percent of the total agricultural land. In the public sector these figures are
respectively 9.8 percent and 4.5 percent, as presented in Figures 2 and 3.
F r ss ,0
at r s n
P sue a d
Ma o s
O hr s
c rb n
Aa lela d
,0 60 %
Figure 2. Land utilization in private sector
O hr s rb n
Aa lela d
01 % ,0
F r ss at r s n
P sue a d
6, 0 edw
Ma o s
Figure 3. Land utilization in public sector
After the year 1990, the property of many state farms were taken over by the Agricultural
Property Agency of the State Treasury within the framework of the restructuring programme.
The Agency rents out only land to the private landholders. The livestock and the buildings
remain in property of the Agency or are sold. The land belonging to the Agency constitutes
only 4.2 percent of total farming land in the country. According to the Main Bureau of
Statistics, 88.7 percent of the sheep population is kept in a private sector and 12.3 percent in a
public one, including 2.2 percent of animals belonging to the Agricultural Property Agency of
State Treasury (Fig 2). Because of a drastic decrease in sheep number, the basic responsibility
of a Warsaw branch of the Agency was to maintain the best pedigree flocks in treasury
companies. In spite of many efforts, it was impossible to avoid a fall in sheep stock at farms
belonging to the Agency. In the last four years, the number of companies involved in sheep
breeding decreased from 37 to 26 and the drop in population size reached 43.5 percent. It
affected mostly Merino sheep and Longwool ones, but also to some extent meat breeds.
The structure of individual sheep farms was presented in the first part of this report. In
1996, the average area of sheep farms was 7.44 ha. Although concentration of sheep
production is uneven within the country, on the average there are three sheep kept on 100 ha
of agricultural land while at individual farms the sheep stock rate is 2.8. The highest stock rate
is typical for highlands, especially in the Podhale region.
Table 2. Distribution of sheep number within sectors (National census, 1996)
User Number of sheep %
Public sector: 62.4 11.3
Sate property 62.4 11.3
( including the treasury farms ) 12.0 2.2
Private sector: 489.2 88.7
Private domestic property including: 487.0 88.3
co-operatives 426.9 77.4
Mixed property 0.5 0.1
In the state-owned sector, goats have not been kept apart from the experimental herds
belonging to the Agricultural Universities and scientific institutes. As for the private sector,
there are no data available on the structure of goat farms.
Management of sheep and goats
The lambing system
In the breed structure of the sheep population kept in Poland there are both breeds
aseasonal in reproduction, like the Polish Merino and Polish Heath Sheep, and seasonal ones,
which are more numerous. In the case of Merino sheep a system of single lambing prevails.
The mating takes place in the autumn months (September/October) or summer and spring
ones (May/June). The autumn mating is carried out in all breeds of seasonal reproduction. The
system of three lambings in two years time is used in the Wielkopolska and Kujawy regions in
the Polish Merino commercial flocks, directed for slaughter lamb production. In such a
system, the flock is divided into groups which are mated in different periods of a year, or the
co-operation programme with several flocks introduced to provide continual lamb supply. The
system of two lambings a year, which are spread throughout the year is applied in the case of
the Polish Heath sheep, kept in commercial flocks in the North - East region of Poland, and as
in Merino sheep, it aims to intensify lamb production.
In the case of goats, kids are born usually once a year, from February to June. Because of a
tendency to expand the milking season, there were attempts to mate goats in early spring and
spread out kidding for the whole year. Taking into consideration a long lactation period,
kiddings more often than once a year are not carried out.
The source of feeds
In sheep and goat husbandry both fodder and dry feed usually come from the breeder’s
own farm. If farms are located close to the food processing plants, their by-products (like
dried or wet sugar beet pulp, potato pulp) can be obtained on the basis of individual contracts
between the plant management and the breeder. Only in the case of backyard goat keeping is
feed purchased outside. The corn production for privately owned livestock is carried out on
most of the farms. When the grain is available on the farm, only additional concentrates, pre-
mixes and vitamin-mineral supplements are purchased. Grazing utilization of public grounds,
waste lands and other areas which do not belong to the farmer is extremely rare, with the
exception of highlands.
Most big sheep farms have the equipment necessary for field cultivation, hay collection and
preparation, and some farms have equipment for making silage and other fodder. Such
farmers also have special equipment to deliver feed. Small farmers, without professional
equipment to prepare and conserve feed for their stock, often cooperate in such tasks with
their neighbours and enjoy reciprocal assistance.
Milking equipment for goats and sheep and its utilization depends on the size of the herd
and access to electricity. In small goat farms and on sheep mountain pastures milking is done
manually. In big herds milking machines are used. They are mainly of domestic production
(Service Centre PPUH) or of foreign origin, imported for Polish market (Alfa-Laval,
Westfalia - Separator).
On the farms carrying out intensive lamb production, the sheep barns are fitted with
equipment for distribution of feed as well as concentrates. There are still farms operating
typical lamb fattening units with grating floors, which cooperate with flocks using, intensive
In general, utilization of professional equipment in sheep and goat production increases
according to the intensification level and depends on the herd size. At small farms, the
majority of work and, in many cases even all the work connected with the herd management,
is done by hand.
Breeding organization, extension and state subsidies
Sheep and goat breeders are members of the Polish Sheep Breeders Association and its
regional branches. In January 1995, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Economy
transferred responsibilities connected with sheep and goat breeding, e.g. performance
recording, flock books, breeding programme implementation as well as budget subsidies
distribution from the Central Animal Breeding Office to the Polish Sheep Breeders
The Association gathers not only sheep and goat breeders but also producers, and is very
much involved in different activities, also economic ones, to provide assistance for its
members (such as organization of lamb export or wool purchase, and trade of breeding stock).
The new institutions, Agricultural Chambers are being organized now. They will facilitate
development of agriculture in communes and provinces as well as coordinate different
agricultural enterprises and activities including those connected with sheep and goat
The Polish farmers have their trade unions. There are several organizations, the most
important are NSZZ "Solidarność” and Samoobrona, which represent farmers' interests in
negotiations with state administration and decision makers. For several years Polish farmers
have had a free access to agricultural commodity exchange. They have also had the possibility
of direct cooperation, on contract basis, with processing plants such as: slaughterhouses, wool
processing plants and tanneries as well as textile plants. Apart from direct selling at the farm
gate, breeders can order services of commercial trade companies which operate on the market.
For instance, special companies, authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture to export slaughter
lambs, are in charge of conducting purchases at farms, and they provide such services to
producers. Breeders have possibilities to purchase necessary means for production in
commercial institutions like AGROMA, which deliver agricultural equipment, sowing
material and fertilizers, as well as in feed mixing plants.
The main organizations which provide assistance to farmers are Agricultural Extension
Centres. There is such a Centre in each of 49 provinces. These centres are subsided mostly by
the state budget through Province Agricultural Departments. They employ advisers, mainly
graduates from the Agricultural Universities. The adviser takes care of extension in a few
dozen private farms on the basis of individual agreement. The farmers are provided with
information on new tendencies and technologies and the adviser supervises their
implementation into practice. He often helps in the preparation of business plans which are
necessary to obtain bank credits. Apart from the direct farm visits, the Agricultural Extension
Centres employees are available at given duty hours on the commune site. The Centres
activities are directed to respond to the needs of the area for which they work. So,
unfortunately, their commitment to the problems of sheep and goat husbandry is visible only
in some of these centres.
The Polish Sheep Breeders Association, which has 13 regional branches also performs
some advisory functions. Farm visits connected with performance recording provide
opportunities for extension on the proper stock management.
Both the Agricultural Extension Centres and the Polish Sheep Breeders Association
organize various seminars and training courses for farmers, with lectures given by scientists
from Agricultural Universities and research institutes as well as officials from the Ministry of
Agriculture. Although Agricultural Extension Centres and regional branches of the Polish
Sheep Breeders Association often cooperate in different activities, they are not connected in
any formal or financial way. Also the Institute of Animal Husbandry, which is the research
institute belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture, is very much involved in professional staff
training and implementation of the new technology into agricultural practice.
The state agency, which works on improvement of production quality and efficiency, is the
Agency of Agriculture Development and Modernization. It is financed by the state budget.
Poland has been included in the PHARE programme since 1990. Eleven and one-half percent
of the funds obtained through PHARE have been assigned for agriculture development
programmes (FAPA). The FAPA assists in organization of training courses for breeders and
producers as well as in upgrading qualifications of advisory staff. Such training is conducted
with the involvement of Polish experts but also includes experts from the European Union
The FAPA also sponsors many professional publications which provide technical
knowledge to the farmers. An example of the above is the handbook on “Intensive Lamb
Production” written by a group of scientists from different research institutions all over
Generally speaking, the state financial support for sheep farmers is not very high in Poland
in comparison with other countries of Eastern Europe (e.g. Slovakia ). At present farmers can
apply for several different bank loans :
the investment loan - to purchase farming equipment or to construct farm buildings - the
interest rate is 16 percent a year;
for young farmers (until the age of 40) for farm modernization or establishment of a new
farm - the interest rate is 6.25 percent a year;
for land purchase - the interest rate amounts to 6.25 percent a year;
loan connected with livestock husbandry, in sheep/goat husbandry for stock purchase and
farm modernization - the interest rate equals 9-10 percent a year.
In the case of the loans described above, the difference between the given interest rate and
its real value is covered from the state budget; for instance the investment loan is supported
through the Agency of Agriculture Development and Modernization. To obtain such a loan
the farmer is obliged to present a business plan, accepted firstly by the Agricultural Extension
Centre specialist, and then by the bank itself.
Another form of state support is subsides provided for breeders by the Ministry of
Agriculture through the Biological Development Fund. All details on these subsidies available
for sheep and goat farmers, will be presented further in another part of this report.
Technical problems concerning sheep and goat husbandry
At present, the economic situation of sheep farms in Poland is critical. Because of that
situation it is hardly justified to plan the establishment of new farms or enlargement of sheep
production. The efforts to improve profitability through input minimalization led to a decrease
in the use of prophylactics and limited purchase of feed supplements. It has a negative effect
on the performance, productivity level and health status of animals.
Sheep breeders in Poland are sufficiently prepared to carry on sheep production and
manage their flocks. Unfortunately, the economic conditions make their knowledge difficult
to implement into practice. The main goal in sheep husbandry, slaughter lamb production,
makes the farmers improve conformity and meat traits as well as reproductive performance of
The decrease of sheep number had a tremendous effect on breeding ram demand, which
changed economic conditions in pedigree flocks. For instance, the number of breeding rams
sold in the years 1994-1996, from farms belonging to the Agricultural Property Agency of the
State Treasury dropped 20 percent in spite of high subsidies provided from the state budget.
However, this decline was not observed in terminal sire breeds.
Coming to goat husbandry, the main problem in the establishment of a new farm is the lack
of pedigree stock available. At the same time a high price of imported animals makes the
breeders buy goats available on the local market. The fact that 86.6 percent of young goats are
left for replacement in their own herds, proves the serious difficulties in purchasing breeding
When the level of milk production is high and milk processing is difficult to manage at the
farm, it may create problems for a goat producer who has not got a stable market. Dairies
often do not want to accept this raw material, mainly because there is still no Polish norm for
goat milk and its products, in spite of many efforts of the Polish Sheep Breeders Association.
There is a lot to be done to develop a market of sheep and goat products as well as their
In Poland, the system of alternative utilization of small ruminants for environmental
services, vegetation management and landscape conservation has not been implemented yet.
Only in the Karpaty region do sheep graze in mountain pastures, also on the area belonging to
the Tatra National Park. Sheep grazing on the mountain meadows has been a long-lasting
tradition of highlanders. As an additional attraction, sheep husbandry supports tourism and
provides employment for local people, which is important in securing sustainable
development of the region. In preparation for joining the European Union some specific
mechanisms must be implemented to promote sheep production in difficult conditions in the
highlands, to follow up the EU regulations in that field. A Controlled grazing system to
manage waste lands and protect landscape has not been used yet in other parts of Poland.
The economic situation of sheep farms
In the year 1996, while working on “The Programme of Sheep Improvement by the Year
2010” the profitability of sheep production was analysed. This analysis was based on results
of a survey conducted by an economic group of the Agricultural Extenuation Centre in
Minikowo. The profitability analysis was carried out using two methods: a distributive one,
depending on farm costs distribution in particular production sectors, and an organic one,
which took into account mutual connections between the sectors. The calculations showed
that the situation in commercial sheep production is still very bad. In spite of the method used,
sheep production was not profitable.
The deficit in agricultural net income per ewe kept in the breeding flock using a
distributive method of analysis amounted to 961 PLN at farms with semi-intensive and 308
PLN with intensive levels of plant production. In the organic method the calculation was
made separately for the farm of 15 ha (the flock consisted of 73 ewes, 3 rams and 18 hoggets)
and of the 50 ha (240, 10 and 58 heads respectively). The agricultural gross income in the first
flock was 49.2 PLN and in the second one 96.1 PLN per ewe. A high amortization cost
brought the negative net income and final loss of 132.5 PLN per ewe in the first and 96.1
PLN in the second flock.
In both calculations the charge on indirect production costs was extremely high, from 53.5
percent to 66.8 percent. It was in agreement with the observed tendency to increase shares of
indirect costs in the structure of agricultural production costs. It results in rapid
decapitalization of sheep farm production workshops which are unable to restore their assets.
The calculation shows that at the smaller production scale, because of much lower
agricultural gross income (3 592 PLN in comparison with 23 071 PLN), a considerable curtail
of living expenses is necessary in farm families. It has been estimated that on a farm of 15 ha,
the outcome from sale should increase by a minimum 20 percent just to keep the living
standards at the average level, but without any investments at the farm. The above analysis has
been carried out assuming reproduction performance on the level of 1.4 lamb sold per ewe.
Some other calculations, provided within this programme by Borys, include the
comparison of production profitability depending on the level of ewes' reproductive
performance and the weight standard of exported lambs. In this analysis it was clearly shown
that the highest gross margin can be obtained while selling lambs of 30 kg body-weight in a
flock fertile: 180 percent (93 PLN per ewe) or 150 percent (65 PLN per ewe). When selling
lambs of 22 kg, only with the highest flock fecundity is it possible to obtain a gross margin on
the level of 67 PLN per ewe. The lowest reproduction performance, 100 percent, brings up a
loss of 5 PLN per ewe with the lightest (16 kg) or 0 PLN gross margin per ewe with the
heaviest (40 kg) lambs.
These calculations are in accordance with the previously presented ones and clearly show
the lack of profitability in sheep husbandry. With the deficit in net income, the higher gross
margin can be achieved only by enlarging production scale and improving fecundity.
In the case of goat farms, the data regarding profitability are not available and more
difficult to obtain, so it is even harder to draw any conclusions. Profitability varies
considerably and depends mostly on potential markets, the development of which are still
uneven in our country. The diversity of market is of regional nature and regards all goat
products. However, the dynamic development of the goat population in recent years indicates
the relative profitability of husbandry of this species.
National sheep breeding programmes
Prolificacy Improvement Programme
The change in sheep husbandry exclusively towards meat production has shown the
necessity to increase prolificacy and fecundity of the national sheep population in order to
partly improve the economic situation of that sector.
In January 1994, “The Prolificacy Improvement Programme" was introduced by instruction
of the Minister of Agriculture and Food Economy with the aim to increase the prolificacy
level both in pedigree as well as in commercial sheep populations. The programme is based
on upgraded crossbreeding with prolific breeds such as East Friesian, Finn, Romanov,
Olkuska and Booroola sheep. The contribution of a prolific breed genotype was established on
25 percent to enable easier type consolidation in the upgraded breed and to restrain the
increase of litter size to the expected level of +0.3 lambs, which should not create any
As the population of prolific sheep in Poland is very small, the programme assumed
utilization of F1 crossbred rams, by sires of prolific breeds and out of ewes of local breeds e.g.
Polish Merinos, Lowland, Longwool and Polish Mountain sheep. The programme is carried
out in flocks of three levels. At the first level there are prolific pedigree flocks of local breeds.
The rams of prolific breeds introduced there are crossed with ewes of mean prolificacy of a
minimum 150 percent in the case of Merino, Lowland and Longwool sheep or 130 percent in
the case of Polish Mountain sheep. Flocks of level I produce F1 rams of a genotype that is
50 percent of a prolific and 50 percent of a local breed to be used for crossing in flocks of the
levels II and III. These rams should transmit high prolificacy to their offspring. The flocks of
the level II are unprolific pedigree flocks, in which breeding material should be completely
exchanged into a desirable genotype (1/4 of a prolific and 3/4 of a local breed) within three to
four years. At level III there are low prolific commercial flocks, in which the procedure is
similar to that described above for the flocks of level II. However, the rules are not so strict
and also allow the use of rams from synthetic lines with 50 percent of prolific breed genotype.
In the first year of the Programme implementation there were 29 East-Friesian, 10
Romanov, and 8 Olkuska rams used in 38 flocks of level I. In level II 6 flocks (20 rams) were
included while 20 herds (25 rams) participated in level III. In the year 1995, the programme
was conducted in 38 herds of both level I and II in which 696 rams were included in breeding
value estimation and received selection index. In the year 1996 the number of flocks taking
part in the programme increased to 76 and the number of rams to 1 333 (IZ, 96).
From the beginning of the programme implementation in 1994, its introduction has been
supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Economy through the Biological
Development Fund. Only ewes selected for mating with prolific rams in flocks of level I and
with F1 rams or the synthetic-line rams in flocks of level II and III were entitled to subsidies.
Sheep Improvement Programme by the year 2010
This programme, elaborated by the team appointed by the Minister of Agriculture was
accepted in September 1996. The programme indicates meat as the main purpose in Polish
sheep husbandry. Milk production, not only in the Polish Mountain sheep but also in Lowland
sheep may create an additional possibility for sheep utilization in the future. Following are
breeding aims adopted in the programme:
prolificacy and maternal abilities;
feed conversion ratio.
The commercial production has to be based on crossbreeding, so different breeding goals
are applied to sire breeds and dam breeds. Merino sheep, Lowland and Longwool as well as
Polish Mountain sheep are considered as maternal breeds, where prolific and meat breeds are
considered as sire ones. The prolific breeds will be used within the Prolificacy Improvement
Programme, which was included as a part of the Sheep Improvement Programme by 2010.
The breeding work within prolific breed populations will be regulated with specific
instructions, however high litter size is the main breeding goal in these breeds. As regards
meat breeds, apart from fast growth rate, the carcass quality improvement, better conformity
and a low fat content are of a great importance. In future, meat breeds should also be
improved as far as feed utilization is concerned. It is planned to develop progeny test station
for meat rams.
The maternal breeds, especially Lowland and Longwool sheep, should participate in level
II and III of the Prolificacy Improvement Programme and transform the genotype of the
breeding stock into a desirable one (1/4 of prolific breed and 3/4 of local breed). The breeding
aims for maternal breeds are prolificacy and maternal abilities estimated by the number of
lambs weaned and their body-weight at the age of 56 days. The body weight and condition of
ewes is also monitored in maternal breeds.
For East-Friesian and other milk breeds a new recording scheme will be introduced, as it is
already done in the Polish Mountain sheep. Some pure breeds, especially of a small
population size, are regarded as genetic reserve or conservation flocks. Such breeds are
included in conservation programmes aiming to maintain high genetic variability. There are
several breeds and varieties in this group, for instance: Swiniarka sheep, Polish Heath Sheep
or local lowland and longwool varieties such as Uhruska sheep, Corriedale, Zelazna sheep and
The Improvement Programme addresses a lot of issues like: regionalization, and relations
between commercial and pedigree sectors etc. which are impossible to present here. The
chapter on economic support for sheep husbandry is an integral part of the programme; it
specifies the subsidy directions which should stimulate implementation of the programme. It
was assumed that by the year 2010, sheep population should increase up to 1.5 millions heads.
To achieve this, the financial assistance for commercial producers is also necessary.
The new system of state support introduced in 1997 transferred subsidies previously
available at purchase of pedigree rams into the ewe flock. The value of the ewe subsidy
depends, generally speaking, on the flock involvement in the improvement programme. For
the first time ewes in commercial flocks were also included in the subsidy system, although on
a low level.
The programme provides possibilities to support specific projects connected with sheep
improvement like, for instance, establishment of breeding performance evaluation stations.
The programme also postulates financial support for breeders keeping their flocks in difficult
environmental conditions. Such resources should come from the budget of the Environmental
Protection Department at the local or central level.
Table 3. Subsidies available for sheep husbandry in 1997
Subsidies paid for: Number of sheep entitled Subsidy value in
to subsidy in 1000 heads PLN
1. Ewes in pedigree sire flocks producing rams 18 165
(prolific, meat and level I rams)
2. Ewes in pedigree dam flocks producing rams and in level II 45 120
3. Ewes in conservative and genetic reserve flocks 3 111
4. Ewes in multiple flocks and commercial level III flocks 72 75
5. Ewes in remaining commercial flocks (minimum 10 ewes) 105 50
As there is no national goat genetic improvement programme so far, the subsidy system has
not been changed, as in the case of sheep. In the year 1997, the following subsidies were
available for goat breeders:
for the licensed buck sold for breeding 340 PLN, if registered in the herd book, or 210
PLN if it is registered in the preliminary herd book;
for primiparous goat of Improved White or Fawn breed or of imported breeds - 90 PLN
Apart from the subsidies paid to breeders, the Biological Development Fund provides
support for organizations and institutions for carrying out different tasks connected with
breeding work. The Polish Sheep Breeders Association is entitled to the following subsidies:
for performance recording of ewes in a flock up to 100 heads 1.40 PLN
over 100 heads 0.44 PLN,
for ewe identification and registration in commercial flock 3.00 PLN,
for milk recording performance in goats using method : A4 A5
in herds up to 15 8.64 PLN 6.50 PLN
over 15 heads 4.32 PLN 3.24 PLN
A subsidy can be also granted for :
AI of ewe:
- with oestrus synchronization 8.10 PLN
- without oestrus synchronization 3.45 PLN
AI of goat: 23.00 PLN
The above list does not mention all subsidy titles, which include also keeping of herd
books as well as processing and publishing of sheep and goat performance recording results,
both tasks commissioned to the Polish Sheep Breeders Association.
Biuletyn Owczarski 1996: Warszawa, No. 2 (02), 1996.
Biuletyn Owczarski 1997: Warszawa, No. 1 (03), 1997.
Hodowla Owiec i Kóz w 1996 roku: Polski Związek Owczarski, Warszawa, 1997
Krajowe programy hodowlane dla owiec. Wydawnictwo Instytutu Zootechniki i Polskiego
Związku Owczarskiego, Kraków, Grudzień 1996
Mały Rocznik Statystyczny 1997: Główny Urząd Statystyczny, Warszawa, 1997.
Program doskonalenia owiec do roku 2010 z dnia 24.09.1996
Programu poprawy plenności krajowego pogłowia owiec (Instrukacja MRiGŻ z dnia
Powszechny spis rolny 1996 - Użytkowanie gruntów i powierzchnia zasiewów, GUS,
Powszechny spis rolny 1996 - Zwierzęta gospodarskie, GUS, Warszawa 1997 Rocznik
Statystyczny 1996: Główny Urząd Statystyczny, Warszawa, 1996.
Raport Agencji Rolnej Skarbu Państwa, Oddział Terenowy w Warszawie dla MRiGŻ
„Hodowla owiec”, Warszawa, 1997, maszynopis
[Sheep Husbandry Reports 1996: Warsaw, No. 2 (02), 1996.]
[Sheep Husbandry Reports 1997: Warsaw, No. 1 (03), 1997.]
[Sheep and Goat Breeding in 1997: Polish Sheep Breeders Association, Warsaw,1997.]
[The National Sheep Breeding Programmes. Institute of Animal Husbandry and Polish
Sheep Breeders Association, Krakow, December 1996.]
[Annual Statistical Book 1997: Main Bureau of Statistics, Warsaw, 1997.]
[Sheep Improvement Programme by the year 2010, 14.09.1996.]
[Prolificacy Improvement Programme of National Sheep Population (Instruction of
Ministry of Agriculture and Food Economy, 18.01.1994).]
[National Census 1996 - Land Utilization and Arable Areas, Main Bureau of Statistics,
[National Census 1996 - National census 1996 - Land Utilization and Arable Areas,
Main Bureau of Statistics, Warsaw, 1997.Livestock, Main Bureau of Statistics,
[Agricultural Property Agency of State Treasury Raport for Ministry of Agriculture and
Food Economy "Sheep Breeding", Warsaw, 1997.]
The authors would like to express their thanks to the Warsaw Branch of Agricultural Property
Agency of the State Treasury and to the Polish Sheep Breeders Association for providing the
necessary information used in the preparation of this report.