IFA Sheep Chairman Kevin Comiskey said the potential shortages in fertiliser and feed could have very serious implications for sheep farmers if the sector is not recognised and supported.
He said sheep farming is an extremely low-income sector and the current levels of input cost increases cannot be absorbed on our farms.
“We must have immediate direct support for sheep farmers to offset the costs of fertiliser, feed and fuel. Availability and cost issues are causing huge concern for farmers. This is further compounded by increased contractor costs for silage making that will hit sheep farmers hard,” he said.
Kevin Comiskey has identified a critical area of concern that is unique to sheep farming if there is any reduced availability of grass or compound feeds.
“A key aspect of sheep farming for a significant number of farmers is the store lamb trade. This trade is dependent on grass supplies and will be the first to suffer if there is any reduction of grass production or redirection of land use over the year, or availability of compound feeds.”
The IFA Sheep Chairman said measures must be put in place that safeguard this critical trade issue for sheep farmers. These must be based on direct financial supports and incentives to farmers for finishing store lambs for the coming year.
He said sheep farmers have been continuously told of the importance of guaranteed supplies of lamb for our key markets. The well-established mix of systems which includes store lamb finishing has to be supported and market disruption avoided.
“Farmers must be allowed use all lands at their disposal. Restrictions, in particular in the GLAS scheme, must be removed on wild bird cover, traditional hay meadows and low input grassland to ensure we can maximise our grass growth,” he said.