Details have been published on the National Sheep Welfare Scheme (NSWS), which has opened for applications today (Monday, April 8).

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has confirmed that the payment will be per eligible breeding ewe and payment for full scheme compliance will be €8/ewe, (€4/ewe/action completed).

The scheme will run from January 1, 2024 to December 31, 2024, however actions selected must be completed by October 15, 2024.

Reductions in payment will apply where not all actions are completed.

Agriland previously reported that the head of direct payments division at the DAFM, David Buckley said that payments in the new scheme are expected in November.

How to qualify for the scheme

Applicants to the NSWS must:

  • Have an ovine active DAFM herd number;
  • Be farming a holding in respect of which a valid 2024 Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) application is submitted to the department, within the required application period;
  • Submit a 2023 National Sheep Census by February 14, 2024.

There are four actions in the scheme and applicants must complete in full two actions, one from each category.

Completion of both actions are mandatory for payment.

Category A actionsCategory B actions
1. Shearing1. Clostridial vaccination of ewes
2. Body Condition Scoring Ewes and appropriate follow-on management (as appropriate)2. Plunge Dipping to control external parasite.
Source: DAFM
  • Where only the Category B action has been completed payment will be €2.00 per ewe. This is based on the exclusion of the payment for the Category A action (€4) for the non-compliance of Category A action plus a 50% penalty (€2) on the Category B action;
  • Where neither the Category A action nor the Category B action have been completed no payment will be made and an administrative penalty of 20% (€1.60 per ewe) on the overall amount which would have been payable on the 2 actions in the scheme year will be imposed.

Farmers selecting the shearing action, must carry it out by October 15, 2024, and documentary evidence of completion of this action will include but not been limited to, completion of the scheme action record sheets, receipts from a shearing contractor and/or evidence of sale of the wool to a wool merchant.

Farmers that select the Body Condition Scoring (BCS) ewes action must carry it out twice within the timeframes below and the assessment dates must take place eight weeks apart:

  1. First BCS assessment must be carried out between April 15– July 15, 2024.
  2. Second BCS Assessment must be carried out between August 1– October 15, 2024.

If a farmer selects the vaccination of breeding ewes against Clostridial diseases/Pasteurella option, it must be completed by October 15, 2024.

If a farmer selects plunge dipping in this scheme, it must be completed by October 15, 2024. Plunge dipping should not take place eight weeks prior to lambing.

Plunge dipping can be carried out on farm where the flock owner has their own plunge dip or by a mobile plunge dipping service operator.

The scheme is a one-year scheme aimed at assisting farmers to produce better quality animals and implement practical animal welfare measures on their farms.

The NSWS measures are additional to those in the Sheep Improvement Scheme (SIS) and must be applied for separately.

Applying to the National Sheep Welfare Scheme

Applications can only be made using the online facility at either by the applicant themselves or by an approved FAS advisor authorised to act on their behalf.

Applicants not already registered for the department’s online services will need to register first at

The application opening date is Monday, April 8, 2024.

The application closing date is Tuesday, May 21, 2024, followed by a 25 calendar day late application closing date of Saturday, June 15, 2024.

Applicants must ensure their application is correct as errors and omissions cannot be rectified afterwards.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue said: “This scheme consists of a practical menu of health and welfare measures that are applicable to all types of sheep enterprises.

“It is designed to appeal to all sheep farmers regardless of their flock size or production system, including those not currently participating in the existing SIS.

“The scheme sends a strong signal of my commitment to the sector and provides a valuable injection of support that will boost producer confidence in the future viability of sheep farming,” he added.

Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) national sheep chair Adrian Gallagher said the scheme announced is “a practical scheme” that “minimises leakage of monies by rewarding good practice actions on farms”.

Gallagher added the scheme “provides sheep farmers with the opportunity to receive payments on the maximum numbers of ewes by allowing the higher of the latest census figures or the average of the previous three years”.

Kevin Comiskey, former IFA national sheep chair and local election candidate in the Manorhamilton municipal district in Co. Leitrim welcomed the opening of the scheme.

Comiskey said: “It is vital that all eligible ewes that are applied for receive the €8 payment announced today. This will bring the total payment per ewe for 2024 to €20.

“I will continue to work with all farm organizations and lobby government to build on this payment to receive a €30 per ewe payment in future budgets.

While the sheep trade at the moment is relatively good, the vast majority of farmers that lamb their ewes is not benefiting from the current price increase,” Comiskey said.