Last year a total of 1,100 farmers declared donkeys and 540 farmers declared horses to achieve minimum stocking levels for the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme payments.

Altogether, that is a total of 1,640 farmers who claim an ANC payment with equine animals as livestock.

According to a statement from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, under the terms and conditions of the ANC scheme, applicants must fulfill stocking density requirements at a rate of 0.15 Livestock Units (LU) per eligible forage hectare.

Applicants may use any of the following livestock: cattle; sheep; goats; horses; donkeys; and deer to fulfill these requirements.

The statement explained that the number of donkeys is an increase on 2017 levels where 900 farmers used donkeys to meet the stocking requirements.

Phased out

The 2019 terms and conditions for the ANC scheme signal to applicants that the use of donkeys for the purposes of stocking density will be phased out from 2020 on the basis of animal welfare considerations.

Any holding where equines – horses or donkeys – are held must be registered with the Department as an equine premises and any donkeys used to meet ANC requirements must hold a valid equine passport in the applicant’s name.

All equines hold a Livestock Unit value of 1.0. This is the equivalent unit value of an adult bovine.

ANC review

The redesigned ANC scheme for 2019 was revealed by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed in November last year revealing changes in area eligible under the programme.

Under the reviewed scheme, based on identifying townlands that are considered to be constrained by reference to a range of biophysical criteria set out at EU level, approximately 98% of currently eligible townlands remained eligible under the scheme.

In addition, over 2,000 townlands now also have eligible land under the scheme for the first time in 2019.

However, some 700 townlands – spread across the country – will no longer be eligible for the ANC scheme in 2019, having being eligible in 2018.