Farm Ireland
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Sunday 4 December 2016

Interest in sheep industry boosted

Thanks to surge in prices and the Irish economy

Michael Gottstein

Published 26/04/2011 | 05:00

Price surgesand the economic downturn have revitalised interest in the sector
Price surgesand the economic downturn have revitalised interest in the sector

The surge in the last 18 months in the price of sheep, coupled with the downturn in our national economy, has revitalised interest in the Irish sheep industry.

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But cast your mind back to the late 1980s and early 1990s when our national flock was expanding at a phenomenal rate before it started to contract to the current level. Why did so many people get out of sheep?

National Farm Survey and profit monitor data would show that sheep are more profitable than cattle enterprises, and require less investment, yet over the last 10-15 years sheep numbers have been declining constantly.

Why? Very often the answer that farmers will cite when asked why they are scaling down or getting out of sheep is the workload that is attached to this enterprise.

Are sheep enterprises more labour intensive than cattle enterprises? The answer to this question will vary depending on the infrastructure on the farm. There are certainly sheep farmers that I meet in my day-to-day work in the advisory service that are very busy doing fire brigade jobs because the facilities on the farm are poor or non existent.

Profitability

This means that routine tasks such as foot bathing, dosing and treating for the prevention of flystrike only happen when the sheep are lame, scoured or have been struck. Having good facilities -- fencing and handling facilities -- not only cut the time that is spent carrying out routine tasks with the sheep but it also aids good management which promotes better animal performance and enhance profitability

For a number of years the rumour mill has been doing the rounds about the imminent appearance of a grant scheme that would aid sheep farmers in improving the fencing and handling facilities on their farms.

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Because many drystock holdings are fragmented this grant scheme would aid farmers in the purchase of mobile handling equipment and associated penning for sheep. On November 1 last year, the new Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) -- Sheep Fencing/Mobile Handling Equipment Scheme came into being.

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