Have you counted your sheep lately? – Sheep Census forms are in the post

Over 44,000 sheep and goat keepers registered on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s database will receive their Annual Sheep or Goat Census 2016 forms in the coming week.

This year the Department has selected December, 31, 2016 as the census date.

Completing and returning the census is a legal obligation, the Department says.

The onus remains with the flock keeper to make sure that completed census forms are received by the closing date of January, 31, 2017.

The census provides valuable statistical information to the Department and other organisations involved in the development of the industry.

Importance for payments

More importantly for farmers, submission of a completed Census is central in declaring that required stocking rates are being maintained and facilitates the drawing down of payments under schemes such as the Basic Payment Scheme, Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme, AEOS, GLAS and also the new Sheep Welfare Scheme announced in the Budget.

With regard to the new Sheep Welfare Scheme, it should be noted that while the census figures submitted for December 2014 and December 2015 will be used as the historic reference, the Department says.

One of the requirements of the scheme, it says, is that flock owners continue to submit their annual census in a timely manner.     

Census information is also used during inspections where the inspector has details of the census returns submitted for the holding in the last four or five years.

This information is used as the basis for identifying whether animal records have been adequately maintained.

Where to return your Census

This year’s Census returns may be returned either by post via the enclosed addressed envelope to Seefin Data Management, PO Box 17, An Post, Cahirdown, Listowel D.S.U, Co Kerry or via agfood.ie, no later than January, 31, 2017.

Failure to return the census on time may impact on future related payments from the Department.

Keepers should be aware that, in the case of dispute regarding postal returns, the only acceptable proof of postage is a Registered or Express Post receipt.  A postal certificate is no longer acceptable as proof of postage.

There’s an online facility available

Online returns can be made between December, 31, 2016 and January, 31, 2017 by users registered with agfood.ie.

The Department has recently made improvements to this facility which will make online completion more efficient and user-friendly and will also give farmers access to historic sheep or goat census information submitted by them.

Farmers not already registered with agfood.ie can do so by logging on to www.agfood.ie and clicking the option to register.

It should be noted that the closing date of January, 31, 2017 also applies to online Census returns so users registering for access to agfood.ie for the first time should allow sufficient time for their log-on details, which will allow access to all relevant online services, to be sent to them by post after they register.

These logon details will be required to allow online completion of the census.