‘€25m budget for the Sheep Welfare Scheme must be retained within the sector’

The full €25m budget for the Sheep Welfare Scheme must be retained within the sheep sector, the IFA’s National Sheep Committee Chairman, John Lynskey, said.

Following a recent meeting of the IFA’s National Sheep Committee, Lynskey said the estimated €5m underspend from the scheme must be ‘fully protected‘ for the sheep sector.

Figures indicate that some 22,500 sheep farmers applied on approximately 2m ewes under the new Sheep Welfare Scheme. Lynskey added: “This would cost about €20m per annum, leaving an additional €5m unallocated.

The IFA worked hard to secure the €25m funding for the sheep sector, and it is essential that the remaining €5m is retained for the sector.

The IFA’s National Sheep Committee is considering a number of possible options for the €5m and has already been in contact with senior officials in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on the matter, he said.

Sheep producers are expected to be consulted by the IFA, through its branches and county executive structure, on these possible options.

Lynskey believes that the Sheep Welfare Sheme is proceeding well and producers are currently undertaking the various options or tasks that they have chosen.

This is on-going; it is important that applicants record the necessary details and maintain the records following the undertaking of the tasks.

“Sheep farming is a major enterprise on Irish farms, with over 30,000 producers and 2.5m breeding ewes,” Lynskey said.

Details of the scheme

Farmers accepted into the scheme will be provided with a payment of €10/ewe, as long as they comply with the terms and conditions.

It is hoped the scheme will make a positive contribution to sheep welfare, with particular regard to the production system and the environment in which it takes place.

Sheep farmers with breeding ewes can apply for payment based on two actions they choose from a menu to undertake, depending on their flock type.

Farmers who are accepted into the scheme must choose one option from each category.

*Hill flocks may not choose both mineral supplementation of lambs and meal feeding of lambs post-weaning.

The scheme, which is proposed to run for four years, will take the average number of breeding ewes the farmer held in 2014 and 2015, as declared on the sheep census, as the eligible number of ewes for the scheme.