The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association has renewed its call on Minister Creed to look again at the possibility of a top-up for hill ewes under the proposed Sheep Scheme.

INHFA Livestock Chair Brendan Joyce outlined how the hill sector remains the most pressurised sector in terms of income returned.

“With no light lamb market to support hill lamb the hill ewe continues to lose €3/head.

“It’s also vital that this breed is supported as 40% of national breeding flock is derived from this sector,” he said.

Joyce said that this year’s figures are indicating a further 15% drop in returns and the Minister should not miss the opportunity to address all of this.

Under the scheme farmers are expected to choose two measures from a number of options and will receive €10/ewe. These measures are broken between two categories (A and B).

For Hill farmers category A consists of mineral supplementation to ewes and meal feeding to lambs.

In category B the options include barasite control, scanning, mineral supplementation to lambs and purchasing of a 3/4/5 star ram or parentage recorded ram, it said.

“With a total of €25m available for the scheme the option to deliver a top-up for the hill ewe can be achieved,” Joyce said.

He then outlined how hill farmers could be given the option of choosing another measure from Category B to avail of a €5 top-up.

The cost of this he added “would be less than €3m and can be delivered within the budget as no scheme will have 100% take-up”.

The proposal to allow flexibility for commonage farmers to increase numbers to their individual minimum was also welcomed by Joyce who said that “this was one part of an INHFA proposal for commonage farmers and we now need clarity for farmers that have to reach the commonage minimum and those that may be forced to de-stock”.

Joyce emphasised the importance of getting the funding for the scheme through in the upcoming budget and he stated “ensure farmers get payment in Spring of 2017”.