Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue’s planned Sheep Improvement Scheme in the next CAP falls “far short” of what’s needed, according to IFA sheep chair Seán Dennehy.

Dennehy said the €20m scheme, which has a €12/ewe payment rate, will only be available to 1.7m ewes and will exclude 1m ewes.

“This is even fewer than the number of ewes in the current Sheep Welfare Scheme,” he said.

Dennehy, speaking at the CAP meeting where IFA members protested in Kilkenny Mart on Thursday night, called on the minister to provide funding for €30/ewe for all ewes in the country in the new CAP plans.

“According to the most recent census figures, there are over 2.6m ewes in the country. Using those figures, the proposed funding will only deliver a payment of €7.70/ewe,” he said.

Dennehy highlighted the vulnerability of sheep farming and the dangers of losing this key contributor to quality food production, environmental ambitions and critical social and economic activity in some of the most challenging farming regions of the country.

He said a targeted €30/ewe payment is crucial to support the sector; encourage generational renewal; and ensure sheep farming remains a significant and positive contributor to those areas where it’s carried out.

Dennehy said the IFA had specifically called for shearing to be included in the scheme to address the collapse in the wool market. This would offset the cost associated with what is a key animal health and welfare measure on farms, and allow payments in the scheme build to €30/ewe.