On welcoming the Government’s commitment of €25million for the sheep Industry the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association have called on the Minister to use this opportunity to deliver for the industry and in particular the crippled Hill Sheep Sector.
Despite the major importance of the hill ewe to the national sheep industry (delivering 40% of the national breeding flock) hill farmers are seeing a loss of €3 per ewe based on Teagasc figures. This situation cannot continue according to Brendan Joyce INHFA Livestock Chair who stated that “we have to find a way to make the industry profitable and the re-establishment of the light lamb market would go a long way towards this”
With the Factories, Bord Bia, Sheep Ireland, Teagasc and others highlighting how EID tagging can increase traceability and substantially help in the marketing of Lamb Mr Joyce stated that “if EID tagging is to be a compulsory measure under the sheep scheme then the onus must be placed on the factories to deliver for hill sheep farmers and play their part at putting the sector back on a sound economic footing” This he added is why “if introduced EID tagging should be on a trial basis for the duration of the Scheme and reassessed if the factories fail to deliver on markets and price”
As the scheme is expected to involve a welfare element, with farmers required to carry out a number of measures from a menu of options. The INHFA stated Mr Joyce “are adamant that enough flexibility is provided and that all sheep farmers should have equal access to the same measures without discrimination” He also outlined the need for a 50% top up in delivering these measures on mountain type farms due to the higher cost in delivering any measure in a Hill situation. Referencing the top-up for hill farmers on mountain type land in the old Sheep Grassland Scheme as an acknowledgement of the challenges in the sector Mr Joyce pointed out “how that scheme had no measures to be delivered within it”
Mr. Joyce also called upon the Minister “to acknowledge farmers participating in a commonage management plan and allow flexibilities on any reference year that may be used for the scheme so as not to disadvantage a minority of hill farmers who will be forced to change stocking regimes under a CMP” Mr Joyce concluded by outlining how a rolling reference year could accommodate any young farmers who may not yet have reached their stocking potential.