THE IFA has called on the Department of Agriculture to clarify the position regarding mountain sheep breeds in order to enable sheep farmers to correctly complete their 2012 census form.
IFA sheep chairman James Murphy said clarity on the mountain sheep breed was needed as a matter of urgency if farmers were to be able to complete census forms that they received in the post last week.
Mr Murphy said sheep farmers were not in a position to return the census forms until the Department clarified that crosses from the mountain breeds of Cheviot and Blackface Mountain were classified as mountain breeds.
He said hill farmers consider Cheviot cross Suffolk or Cheviot cross Texel as mountain breeds and should be recorded in the census as such.
The IFA sheep farmers leader expressed serious concern that the Department of Agriculture was attempting to impose the new commonage stocking rate criteria by the back door by demanding data on the mountain sheep breeds in the census.
Over 30,000 sheep farmers received sheep census forms from the Department last week. The Department has sought additional information from all flock owners this year.
This information will be subsequently used to determine compliance by hill sheep farmers with minimum and maximum stocking density rates on commonages, under new rules to be introduced in 2013.