Sheep Improvement Scheme

The Sheep Improvement Scheme has reopened for new applications and will remain open until 5pm on 29 February 2024.

New entrants are defined for the purpose of the sheep scheme as an applicant who has applied for a new flock number within the period from 1 December 2020 to 31 December 2023.

A new entrant can also be an applicant with an existing flock number who has not held or traded in sheep for a three-year period from 1 December 2020 to 30 November 2023.

Payment under the scheme is set at €12 per ewe.

Organic farming

Detailed advice on late pregnancy feeding programmes for organic farmers is available here. The article also includes relevant information for all farmers on diet formulation, establishing the feeding value of formulated feeds and energy and protein requirements in late pregnancy.

It is also worth noting for organic farmers that in the absence of organic milk replacer or colostrum substitutes, lambs must be fed on maternal milk for at least 45 days after birth.

Hence options available include collecting colostrum from ewes that may have a surplus and storing or, where applicable, cross fostering.

Where none of these options are a runner, then it is permitted under animal welfare grounds to use conventional products, but animals receiving such feed must be tagged, recorded and sold conventionally.

Lameness control

Significant numbers of ewes will be housed in advance of lambing in the coming weeks. Getting on top of any lameness issues in advance of housing will pay significant dividends and help prevent issues escalating in an indoor environment that may promote the disease spreading.

Lame animals should be segregated and retained outdoors or penned together indoors for priority treatment. Consult your vet regarding product choice if administering antibiotics during gestation.

Any animals failing to recover despite receiving treatment, or any repeat offenders should be marked for culling, with such animals often acting as a reservoir for disease in a flock.

Final census deadline

The deadline for online returns of the annual Department of Agriculture sheep and goat census is Wednesday 14 February. The census portal via can be accessed via the ‘Animal Identification and Movements’ tab in the homepage.

From there, select the census drop down menu at the top of the page and this will provide the option to create or amend your 2023 census application. The date of the census count was 31 December 2023.

Submission of a census is vital for compliance with numerous schemes and the receiving of direct payments.

Date for diary

The Teagasc hill sheep conference takes place on Thursday 15 February at 7pm in the Glendalough Hotel, Glendalough, Co Wicklow, A98 X9C1.

Topics discussed include a blueprint for upland management, sustainable control of liver fluke in hill sheep, a new era for Irish hill sheep breeding and the CAFRE journey to better biodiversity on the hill farm. The event is free to attend.