The number of sheep in the Netherlands has dropped from 1.3 million to just under a million since the beginning of this century, and the number of sheep farms has fallen by a third to 12,000, according to figures from the central statistics agency CBS on Tuesday.
Much of the decrease can be traced back to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001. The scrapping of a special subsidy for sheep farmers which guaranteed their income in economically difficult periods has also had an effect on numbers, the CBS says.
The number of sheep sent for export has been stable at around 350,000 for the past six years. Most of these are exported to Belgium and France.
Friesland province has the largest number of sheep at 167,000. The number of sheep per farm is highest in the provinces of Groningen and Flevoland, the CBS says.
Sheep are important in the management of nature and landscape, but are mainly kept for their meat and for breeding.
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