Application forms for the Sheep Welfare Scheme are set to be sent out to farmers early in the new year, according to the chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) National Sheep Committee, John Lynskey.

It is understood that the deadline for applications to the scheme – which includes a payment of €10 per ewe for 2018 – will close on February 2 next year.

Lynskey explained that the application form is “very straightforward” and that farmers in the scheme will only be required to confirm that they wish to continue to participate in second year of scheme.

It will also be possible to complete the application and declaration online.

To date this year, some 20,986 sheep farmers have been paid €16 million under the scheme – through an 85% payment advance; the remaining 15% payment will be made in early 2018, Lynskey said.

New entrants

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has clarified that the scheme will also be open to new entrants in 2018, the chairman of the IFA’s National Sheep Committee added.

He said: “A new entrant to this scheme is defined as an applicant who has applied for a new herd number from January 1, 2017 and prior to December 31, 2017 – or an applicant with an existing herd number who has not held or traded in sheep for a two-year period up to October 31 preceding the scheme year.”

Lynskey also claimed that the department clarified that, based on the EU Rural Development regulation, it is not possible to reopen the scheme in 2018 for those who were in sheep over the last few years, but who did not apply to take part in the first year of the scheme.

Meanwhile, he also outlined that the department has confirmed that the reference number for farmers in the scheme will remain as when they entered the scheme; the only scope for increasing numbers in the scheme is on foot of a GLAS commonage plan, Lynskey explained.

Sheep farmers were also reminded the department had sent out 2017 sheep census forms in recent days and that the census will be undertaken on Sunday, December.

The closing date for submitting forms in hard-copy format is January 31, 2018; but farmers who complete the census forms online will have until February 14, 2018.

Lynskey said: “It is essential that all sheep farmers give both the Sheep Welfare Scheme application form and the sheep census form the attention they deserve and ensure that they are completed accurately and returned on time within the deadlines set down.”