Farm Ireland

Friday 23 February 2018

Confidence is boosted by new sheep scheme

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Sheep farmer confidence has been bolstered by the €54m grassland sheep scheme announced by the Department of Agriculture last week -- but returns for finished stock will also have to improve industry sources claim.

The new payment, which will see farmers paid €25-70/ha for ewes, is not the complete solution for the ailing sheep industry.

"This is a welcome payment for sheep farmers, amounting to around €10/ewe," said IFA sheep chairman James Murphy.

"But in order to get stability in the national ewe flock, we need a concerted effort from all parties involved in the sector," he insisted.

"There is a change of mindset required from everyone, from the farmer, processors, retailer and Teagasc."

Mr Murphy said the general trend in sheep farming has been one of stagnation.

"This €54m scheme is a significant step in the right direction but we need consistently better prices for lambs to create confidence in sheep farming," he maintained.

Department census figures show that national flock fell to 2.1m breeding ewes last year, and high prices for cull ewes at present means farmers are still selling off breeding stock.

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Cull ewe prices are at record highs, with up to €120/hd available at marts this week.

After the toughest winter for 50 years and tight grass supplies, farmers are culling ruthlessly and taking advantage of the high cull prices.

"The bottom line is a good price for the lambs farmers produce," said Tullow Mart manager John Murphy.

"It is all about price at the end of the day. If there are good lamb prices, farmers will start to think about keeping breeding stock," he insisted.

Department officials have indicated that payments under the new grassland sheep payment will begin in December this year. Farmers in mountain areas will be eligible for a payment of €30/ha for up to 20ha, with a rate of €25/ha payable for farmers with between 20ha and 84ha. Farmers in lowland areas are eligible for a payment of €70/ha.

Stocking rates of 2.5 ewes/ ha apply to mountain-type grazing land, and a stocking rate of seven ewes/ha applies to all other lands.

According to the Department, a farmer with 210 ewes at a stocking rate of 2.5 ewes/ha on mountain land would need 84 eligible hectares of land to claim a payment of €2,200.

A lowland farmer with 210 ewes stocked at two ewes/ha would need 30ha of land to claim his maximum payment of €2,100. This is equivalent to a payment of €10.48/ewe in the mountain areas and €10.00/ewe elsewhere. The same principle applies to farmers with smaller flocks.

For example, a mountain farmer with 50 ewes, stocked at 2.5 ewes/ha would need 20ha to claim the maximum payment of €600 (€12/ewe).

A lowland farmer with 50 ewes, stocked at seven ewes/ha would need 7.14ha of land to claim his maximum payment of €499.98 (almost €10/ewe).

Irish Independent