Farm Ireland

Monday 18 December 2017

U-turn expected on sheep stock rates

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Farmers who were forced to reduce sheep numbers by as much as 50pc may now find that they can increase numbers again for the first time in nearly a decade.

Up to 150,000 sheep covering an area of more than one million acres, mainly along the western seaboard, were removed when it was discovered that the stocking rates were damaging natural habitats for native birds and vegetation.

Farm organisations met with officials from the Department of Agriculture and the National Parks and Wildlife Service last week to hammer out how the issue of encroaching scrub could be tackled.

The recent spate of forest fires were, in part, blamed on the increase of scrub cover which has grown unchecked in the absence of livestock.

A study is set to start over the coming weeks to establish what the appropriate stocking rates should be to re-introduce animals into the affected areas.

It is believed that stocking rates in much of the Nephins and Maamturk mountains will remain unchanged. However, farmers participating in commonage framework plans on the Dingle Peninsula, West Cork, Connemara, west Mayo and in Donegal may all be in line to receive increased stocking rates up to a maximum level.

The IFA's Tom Fadian welcomed the review and said that the sooner farmers were informed of any changes the better.

It is believed that the study will be finalised over the course of the summer.

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