The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) is seeking the inclusion of shearing as an action in the new Sheep Improvement Scheme in the next CAP, as sheep farmers struggle to offset the "enormous cost" of shearing.

However, the IFA has said that Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and his officials have refused to include it.

Sheep farmers do not have the capacity to absorb the cost of shearing and the Government needs to come forward with proposals to offset it, according to IFA sheep committee chair Kevin Comiskey.

As clipping season gets under way, wool prices of just 20c/kg provides no incentive for farmers to present the wool for further added value use, Comiskey said.

“Sheep farmers are already under enormous pressure with input costs," he added.

Feasibility study

Three weeks on from the publication of the wool feasibility study, the announcement has offered very little to farmers, according to Comiskey.

"Sheep farmers have not heard any commitment from Government on direct support for the shearing costs on farms," he said.

Following the publication of the report, there is now "no hiding place" for Minister McConalogue and Minister of State Pippa Hackett, and they must come forward immediately with their proposals to offset this enormous cost on sheep farms, he said.

"€100,000 has been spent and a lot of time lost for a report that merely confirms what industry and farmers already know.

"The recommendations of the report are another tactic to delay supporting farmers for what is a huge cost burden on sheep farms," Comiskey said.

Value of wool

There are no immediate pathways identified that will increase the value of wool at the farmgate and direct support for farmers for this critically important animal health and welfare practice on farms must be addressed, he said.

Farmers should be supported directly for shearing costs with incentives to ensure the wool is presented in optimal condition for further added value uses for this clipping season, Comiskey concluded.