Commenting on the issuing today (Friday, November 26) of the advance payments for the 2021 Sheep Welfare Scheme (SWS), Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Sheep Committee chairman, Sean Dennehy, said the new reference periods are worth over €2 million more for farmers in the scheme.

He said the new reference periods for the scheme provide established flocks with the higher of 2017, or the original 2014/2015 reference years, for payment calculations.

New entrants can use 2019 to reflect the process of establishing their flock.

The Sheep Welfare Scheme provides financial support to farmers for taking extra steps to improve the welfare of their flock. Farmers get €10 per breeding ewe for completing flock welfare measures.

To qualify for the scheme you must:

  • Submit a Basic Payment Scheme application for each year of scheme;
  • Submit a sheep census return for each year during the lifetime of the scheme -exception is made for new entrants in year of entry;
  • Have an active herd number – or be a new entrant – and keep breeding ewes;
  • Maintain the required number of breeding ewes during the scheme.

Updated reference periods in sheep scheme

Dennehy said the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue announced his intentions earlier this year to update the reference periods to better reflect the actual activity levels on sheep farms.

“The minister has honoured this commitment and provided the additional funding for this year’s and next year’s SWS, increasing payments to farmers by over €4 million over the two-year period,” Dennehy said.

The IFA chair added that the focus must now be on building on this scheme in the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), to bring payments to €30/ewe.

He said the current CAP Strategic Plan lacks the funding and ambition to provide this and must be amended.

He said the sheep sector offers huge environmental and socio-economic benefits in some of the most difficult land in the country.

“The sector is extremely vulnerable and its long-term sustainability is dependent on meaningful targeted payments to the farmers who lamb ewes, which is the cornerstone of the entire sheep sector,” he said.