The innate response generated after initial allergen exposure is crucial for polarising adaptive immunity, but little is known about how it drives an atopic or type-2 immune response. The present study characterises the response of skin-draining afferent lymph in sheep following injection with peanut (PN) extract in the presence or absence of aluminium hydroxide (AlOH) adjuvant. Lymph was collected and innate cell populations characterised over an 84 h time period. The innate response to PN extract in afferent lymph displayed an early increase in neutrophils and monocytes without any changes in the dendritic cell (DC) population. PN antigen was transported by neutrophils and monocytes for the first 36 h, after which time DCs were the major antigen trafficking cells. AlOH adjuvant gradually increased antigen uptake by DCs at the later time points. Following lymphatic characterisation, sheep were sensitised with PN extract by three subcutaneous injections of PN in AlOH, and the level of PN-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) was determined. Sheep with higher levels of steady-state DCs in afferent lymph showed increased monocytic recruitment in afferent lymph and reduced PN-specific IgE following sensitisation. In addition, DCs from afferent lymph that had ingested PN antigen increased the expression of monocyte chemoattractant mRNA. The results of this study show that the innate response to PN extract involves a dynamic change in cell populations in the afferent lymph over time. In addition, DCs may determine the strength of the initial inflammatory cell response, which in turn may determine the nature of the antigen-specific adaptive response.Immunology and Cell Biology advance online publication, 10 February 2015; doi:10.1038/icb.2015.4.