A Kerry county councillor is calling on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue to introduce a feed subsidy to support the small mountain lamb trade.

Dan McCarthy, who is also manager of Kenmare Co-op Mart, raised the issue at the monthly meeting of Kerry County Council yesterday (Monday, October 17).

The independent councillor told Agriland that he brought the motion before the council because of “the lack of market” this year for these lambs.

He explained that the increased cost of feed and drought conditions in recent months has placed a strain on buyers.

“90% of these lambs come straight off the mountain into the mart to be sold. As the hill farmers don’t have enough of green ground, the lambs are sent up the country for further feeding. But this year, with the lack of grass, farmers are not buying them.

“The market for them now has fallen from €50/head to €20-25/head this year.

“If there was some kind of a subsidy brought forward, the farmers would be encouraged to feed and keep them until next spring and bring them into weights where they would be more valuable.

“If they bought lambs at 20-25kg, give them a subsidy of €15-20/lamb to feed them, if the farmer themselves didn’t want to feed them,” he added.

Councillor Dan McCarthy. Image: Domnick Walsh

McCarthy fears that if such a measure is not introduced hill farmers will be less inclined to breed their ewes this year.

“The next thing then is the mountains will be lacking in sheep.”

He said that sheep play an important role in keeping vegetation under control in upland areas.

“They are a part of the tradition of Ireland as well. It would be a shame to see them go because they can be produced and the farmers that were buying them for the last number of years were making money out of them.”

The councillor said that the poor market for small mountain lambs is not unique to Co. Kerry and is being repeated along the west coast.

“They are making the same money in every mart and it is putting pressure on the farmer.

“We must try to do something to help these farmers to stay in the business because they are the most vulnerable now. There’s no margin for them to produce lambs at the price they are at at the moment. “

The councillor received unanimous support for this motion which will now be forwarded to Minister Charlie McConalogue for consideration.

“Hopefully, he will come back to me with a response,” McCarthy said.