Flexibility called for on reference numbers in Sheep Welfare Scheme

The Department of Agriculture has been called on by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) to allow flexibility with the Sheep Welfare Scheme where farmers have to go below their reference number between now and September.

ICSA Sheep chairman John Brooks said: “Fodder and cash-flow difficulties have come together this year and many sheep farmers have been placed in a ‘catch 22’ situation – in that if they sell stock they risk defaulting on the terms of the scheme.”

Continuing, Brooks said: “ICSA has always been of the belief that normal trading practices were being curtailed by the scheme.

We believe that farmers should be allowed to sell cull and unproductive ewes in line with normal trade at this time of the year and bring their numbers back up by September.

This, Brooks said, would make sense in any year, but particularly this year when fodder supplies are not there and cash-flow is a major issue.

“Flexibility of up to 20% would be required to buffer sheep farmers. This would remove the unrealistic requirement to hold onto unproductive ewes and allow them to trade normally,” he said.

“It would also remove the risk of a ewe tsunami and depressed prices towards the end of the year.”