Fencing remains a firm favourite of sheep farmers making submissions for grant aid under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II). Figures released to the Irish Farmers Journal this week shows sheep fencing placed in seventh position in the top 10 most popular investments in TAMS II.
As stated in recent weeks, tranche 20, the final tranche in the current scheme, closes for applications on 15 January 2021. Budget 2021 included funding of €80m to allow the scheme to be continued next year but there was a word of caution about it being rolled over in its current form.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said the Department of Agriculture has carried out a review of the current scheme and this will be taken into account before announcing the format of the scheme for 2021. As such, the advice for farmers considering making an application for sheep fencing or sheep handling equipment is to prepare a submission for tranche 20.
There is likely to be a higher entry of applications and a continued high level of applications that will not meet the required marks for approval. However, the upshot of having an application submitted is the possibility of receiving grant aid this time around and being able to complete works or purchase equipment earlier in 2021. The timeline going on previous schemes is typically a six- to eight-week period from the tranche deadline to approval/rejection. Once approved, there is a six-month window to purchase equipment and a 12-month window where construction is involved.
There are two forms of sheep fencing eligible for grant aid – sheep mesh with one strand of wire for lowland/hill farms and sheep mesh with one strand of wire for land designated as mountain grazing. The difference between the two is essentially a higher reference cost of €8.01/m for fencing erected on mountain land compared to the standard costing of €5.34/m. The higher costing is to take account of the higher costs borne when fencing on mountain lands.
The single strand of wire can be electrified, plain tensioned or barbed wire. Farmers can opt to erect two strands of wire on top of mesh wire but they will need to cover the cost of this extra row of wire themselves. The reference cost per new gateway in a new fence is standard across the two fence classifications.
Sheep handling equipment
Table 1 details the suite of sheep handling equipment eligible for grant aid. It is worth noting that a fixed sheep handling unit may require planning permission depending on its size and the size of other concrete areas falling under the same categorisation on the farm or within 100m of where the unit is proposed to be built. This is explained in detail here.
The number of such units constructed under TAMS II funding is relatively low and significantly below the number of mobile handling units which have received grant aid. It is important to highlight the differences between the portable sheep handling race with wheels and the portable basic sheep handling race given the wide variation in price. The portable unit is a wheel-mounted trailed unit with built-in footbaths while the basic unit comprises a simple unit with a race that can be moved by hand. Both units are eligible to facilitate the ordering of sheep penning.
Reports indicate there is interest slowly building in using electronic reading equipment and management software to record performance. The EID tag reader and software is a basic unit that allows tags to be read and information be transferred to a software package. Note there are some readers on the market that simply read the tags and give a printout of tag numbers. For a tag reader to be eligible for grant aid it has to have the capability of linking up to a software package.
A PDA EID tag reader and management software package is much more extensive in its capabilities. The reader itself will possess a keyboard/display screen that allows information to be recorded once the tag is read on a number of production parameters including weight, body conditions score etc. The management software with a PDA tag reader will allow comprehensive analysis to be undertaken on flock performance.