The Department of Agriculture has shown the love to sheep farmers today with the announcement that the 2013 Sheep Census deadline is now set for Valentine’s Day.

“I have decided to extend the closing date in order to give farmers sufficient time to complete and return the census,” Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said in a statement, noting that there is a legal requirement on all flock owners to complete and return the census form.

“It’s essential that farmers take time to fully and accurately complete the census, as failure to do so may prevent the ordering of sheep tags or lead to cross compliance penalties and, indeed, could affect certain scheme applications,” the minister said, adding, “Therefore, while the closing date for receipt of completed forms had initially been fixed for Friday, 31 January, I have decided to extend this by a further two weeks, to Friday, 14 February. I must emphasise, however, that there is no scope to extend this date further”.

Under EU Regulation 21/2004 all flock keepers must count the number of sheep/goats present in their flock holding, record this number in the flock register and are legally obliged to return this number to the Department of Agriculture or to an agent appointed on its behalf.

Failure to submit the sheep census may result in flock numbers being made dormant, failure to obtain sheep tags and penalties in other schemes such as single farm payments, disadvantage area scheme, and other area-based schemes.