Issues with Sheep Improvement Scheme Must be Resolved Without Delay

Sheep in Wicklow

IFA Sheep Chairman Kevin Comiskey said the Department of Agriculture must resolve issues with the terms and conditions of the new Sheep Improvement Scheme.

Following a meeting with Department officials this week, he said a number of issues require amendment for farmers to avoid unnecessary penalties.

The first year of the scheme will run from February 1st to December 31st 2023, with the remaining four years of the scheme operating from January 1st to December 31st annually.

Kevin Comiskey said if scanning takes place on farms in January next, this action will only be eligible for payment through the current scheme. Applicants who choose the action as part of the new scheme will be penalised on their first-year payments because the action did not take place within the new scheme year.

The IFA Sheep Chairman said the scheme year period should run like the SWS, which would avoid penalising farmers for this action in year one.

The requirement to nominate the years the genotyped/parentage verified in the scheme on the first year of application must not be a compliance requirement.

Once a farmer meets the requirement at any point within the term of the scheme it must be accepted as meeting the criteria.

The condition that each ram can only be claimed once over the lifetime of the scheme must be removed. Farmers commonly make decisions to replace rams for breeding purposes and if sold at a later stage, these rams must be eligible to meet the scheme criteria for the next farmer he said.

For hill flocks, as it currently stands, a Scottish Blackface or a Cheviot ram needs to be DNA Sire verified by Sheep Ireland to be eligible for payment. All hill ram breeds must be included in this action and specific hill sheep types removed from the T&Cs.

“It is extremely important that new entrants to the scheme be provided with a rolling reference period which would accurately reflect the level of activity on their farms while establishing their flocks throughout the duration of the scheme,” he said.

New entrants and existing farmers who do not apply to the scheme in the first year must also be accepted into the scheme if they decide to partake in subsequent years.

Kevin Comiskey said the DAFM must recognise the challenges farmers will face with these specific issues and action must be taking immediately to address them.

The closing date for applications of Monday, December 19th next must be extended to ensure sufficient time is provided to farmers to select suitable actions on their farms due to the complexities of the scheme.

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