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Tagging bombshell will push some farmers over the edge


Parachuting mandatory electronic tagging of factory lambs on top of farmers without first consulting them is a text book way of how not to bring about changes in sheep farming.

The bombshell dropped by the Minister for Agriculture is not going to go down well with burnt out sheep farmers who will view it as yet another cost and another layer of bureaucracy.

To put it in perspective, my tag costs will increase from €300 for the tip tags to over €2000 for the electronic tags. That's an extra €1,700 for a tag that will remain in the lambs' ears for less than 12 hours.

A scheme to get farmers involved in protecting and improving the sheep industry in Ireland should have been implemented alongside an increase in the sheep welfare payment to €50 per head.

This tagging plan is in line with our European colleagues who also have to apparently bring in EID tagging of all sheep.

But the proposed once-off 'support' of €50 to buy tags is insulting to farmers. I initially thought that this was a joke.

Combined with the 'clean sheep policy', this EID tagging proposal could just be the straw that breaks the camel's back. More and more farmers I talk to are considering either reducing sheep numbers or are exiting the business altogether.

They are fed up with layer after layer of red tape, rules and regulations and are increasingly weighing up the options. Some are even considering renting out parts of their farms. I don't like to be negative but there is only so much a farmer can cope with.

It seems to me that the only farms that will survive going forward are those that are able to employ a secretarial staff capable of keeping up with compliance and regulation.

As each year goes by, smaller operators will become squeezed and squeezed until such time they are only lifestyle or hobby farmers.

On the farming front, it's great to see at last the improvement in the weather.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I won't be able to close off any fields for silage until the end of May and I'll aim to cut silage and hay throughout July, taking fields of haylage where possible.

I dosed my lambs for the nematodirus worm and gave them a mineral/cobalt dose. I also covered the ewes with a fluke and worm dose.

They are doing well considering what they've been through. It's crucial now to keep them thriving and progressing as much as they can.

Black leg

I gave a booster black leg vaccination to the breeding rams. Rams can get forgotten about and it's important to keep an eye on their well-being.

I've found that I can lose the odd ram to black leg at this time of year as they begin to thrive after the winter so the booster vaccine is just a precautionary shot.

I also vaccinate the pet lambs with an 8-in-one vaccine. I have a good few less this year as my lambing squad volunteers were excellent at adopting lambs to ewes that had lost lambs.

Nevertheless, I'm left with about 50 pets and I'll get them out as soon as I can.

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This field is required

Some people keep them in to finish them off inside, but I find that if I put them in a handy paddock and give them a bit of meal they tip along nicely.

However, it's important to have them covered for clostridial diseases and also keep them separate from the main flock so they can get preferential treatment.

In the meantime, we're busy tidying up after what has been the worst winter in living memory for a lot of people, both young and old. It's hard to dig deep into the energy reserves to get this done but I find that unless you kick on and tidy up after lambing it only drags on into the summer and of all the years, this is one when I want to put the memory of last spring firmly into the past.

Now that things have settled and the ewes and lambs are where they want to be, it's time so take a break and get a breather yourself - I'm fairly certain you deserve it.

John Fagan farms in Gartlandstown, Co Westmeath

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