The latest draft of Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027, which was released on Monday evening as part of the final 30-day consultation period, confirms the proposal to set the payment per ewe at €12 per head.

The total funding allocated is €20m per year or €100m over the five-year lifetime of the next CAP.

This level of funding is similar to that which is currently allocated to the Sheep Welfare Scheme (SWS), but is €5m shy of the initial budget allocated when the existing CAP plan was first launched.

While the level of funding drawn down never exceeded €20m, many farmers and farm organisations were hopeful that the funding allocation would revert to €25m and provide a higher payment per ewe.

The proposed payment rates are based on 16,600 flock-keepers participating from a total pool of 46,000 flock-keepers registered in Ireland.

There are currently in the region of 18,000 flockowners participating in the SWS. However, it is thought that the number who will sign up to the new scheme will fall due to an increasing age profile and some of the existing participants planning to move away from keeping ewes.

It is expected that these 16,600 flocks will capture larger flocks and underpin achieving the target of 1.7m ewes being included from the national figure of 2.57m head recorded in the 2019 annual sheep census.

The payment of €12 per ewe is dependent on farmers completing a number of measures similar to the current SWS.

The Department says payment rates are based on partial compensation, whereby payments are established on actions undertaken based on costs incurred minus the net economic benefit associated with the actions while a transaction cost of 20% of the total cost per ewe is also included in the calculations.

The maximum number of ewes eligible for payment will be the average of the number of ewes in a specified historic reference period. This has not been confirmed in the document and it says this will be specified in the scheme terms and conditions.

Similar to the SWS, payment in a given year will be based on the lower of this maximum reference number or the latest sheep census figures returned.

Participants will be required to possess breeding ewes for each year of the scheme and complete an annual sheep census.

There is no information as yet on whether there will be any grace period granted for replacing ewes or if ewe hoggets can be included in the reference figure calculation from 1 January in the year subsequent to their birth. The requirement for flocks to participate in the Bord Bia Sustainable Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme has also been removed from the latest draft of the consultation document.

Ram genotyping

The measures contained in the consultation document are similar to those included in the SWS in the main, but there is a requirement to purchase a ram or rams which have been genotyped as a four-or five-star ram based on €uro-Star evaluations with an additional option of genotyped sire-verified rams for hill flocks.

Type 4 or type 5 scrapie genotyped rams will not be eligible for inclusion.

The requirements are laid out as follows in the document:

  • Lowland flocks – participants with lowland flocks selecting this action must buy at least one genotyped four- or five-star ram. All farmers must complete this action at least once during the scheme. Farmers with over 150 ewes must complete this action twice.
  • Hill flocks – participants with hill flocks selecting this action must buy at least one genotyped sire-verified hill ram or genotyped four- or five-star rams. All farmers must complete this action at least once during the scheme. Farmers with over 150 ewes must complete this action twice.
  • The year or years in which farmers plan to purchase genotyped ram(s) must be selected in the first year of the application with this measure replacing a selected Category B option in that year as will be explained below.

    Proposed measures

    As touched on already, the makeup of the scheme is similar to the SWS in terms of farmers required to opt to undertake two measures yearly.

    Table 1 details these measures and lowland and hill farmers must select one measure from each of the Category A and Category B lists.

    Hill and lowland flocks are differentiated by the breed selected for their suitability to graze different landscapes. There is a change in the ultrasound pregnancy scanning measure in that scanning records will now need to be submitted online for recording on the Sheep Ireland database.

    Category A

  • Lameness control: under this option, scheme participants must carry out a minimum of five lameness examinations per year, and complete the relevant section for Lameness Control in the Scheme Action Record Book. Scheme participants must then treat all identified incidences having firstly identified the cause(s) of lameness to prevent animals becoming sick/injured as a result of lameness.
  • Mineral supplementation of ewes post-mating: under this action, scheme participants must supplement all ewes (including hoggets out to the ram) with mineral supplements post-mating. Mineral supplementation is required to be administered to ewes to ensure the duration of cover provided by the minerals includes at least the first 60 days from the date of ram turnout.
  • Meal feeding lambs post-weaning: lambs must be supplemented with compound feeds containing appropriate minerals and vitamins for four weeks post-weaning.
  • Parasite control (faecal egg count): under this action scheme participants, with either lowland or hill flocks, must take and submit to the laboratory for testing a minimum of two faecal egg counts per annum. The first test should be conducted within a specified timeframe.
  • Category B

  • Flystrike control: under this action, participants must incorporate a flystrike programme for the prevention of flies during the months of flystrike risk. They must incorporate mechanical means for the prevention of flies in addition to any chemical control used, recording the times of intervention and the number of sheep with dags removed.
  • Mineral supplementation of lambs pre-weaning: under this action, participants must supplement lambs at least once with a mineral supplement during the grazing season pre-weaning which will assist in addressing mineral deficiencies in lambs in hill flocks.
  • Scanning and management of pregnant ewes: ewes must be scanned approximately 70 to 100 days post ram turnout. Scanning data should be submitted online and recorded on the Sheep Ireland database.