Hill-flock farmers calling for an extra €10/ewe payment under sheep scheme

A €10/ewe payment increase under the Sheep Welfare Scheme is being called for by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).

The association believes that the increase is justified given the difficulties hill-flock farmers face when trying to gather sheep to administer measures under the scheme.

The call was made ahead of the Teagasc National Hill Sheep Conference, which is due to take place in Westport, Co. Mayo, on Wednesday, February 21.

Originally, €25 million was allocated to the Sheep Welfare Scheme.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has confirmed that advance payments have issued to 20,986 farmers – with these payments totalling €15.9 million.

It is understood that balancing payments under the scheme will be issued this year, which will bring the total amount paid out to approximately €19 million.

INHFA vice-president Brendan Joyce outlined that a similar underspend is likely in ‘Year 2’ of the scheme.

Joyce added that this underspend must be retained within the sheep sector and that it must be targeted at the hill-sheep sector – in the form of a €10/ewe payment increase.

Also Read: Find out the most popular measures under the Sheep Welfare Scheme

Justifying the increase, Joyce said: “Delivering welfare measures in a hill-flock situation can be very difficult and time consuming – particularly for measures such as scanning and mineral supplementation, where only small numbers of sheep can be gathered at one time.”

Adverse weather conditions in recent months have not helped farmers in this regard either, he added.

Concluding, the INHFA vice-president said: “Hill-flock owners need as much support as possible to sustain hill farming in the absence of a market for light hill lamb and, in particular, with independent farm income reports showing the hill sheep farming sectors to be one of the worst performing sectors financially speaking in Irish agriculture.”