SIS queries

This week’s focus outlines what farmers can expect in a cross compliance inspection. Queries are also circulating regarding this year’s sheep census and the Sheep Improvement Scheme (SIS) reference number.

Some queries are arising due to pressure on farmers to move cull ewes earlier than envisaged due to inclement weather.

The date of the annual sheep and goat census is 31 December 2023. The number of ewes entered on the sheep census is important in terms of influencing the scheme reference number.

If the number of ewes entered on the 2023 census is equal or greater to the scheme reference number set for the flock, then this figure will be the number of ewes which must be maintained throughout 2024 to receive maximum payment.

If the number of breeding ewes entered on the sheep census is lower than the flock’s reference number, this becomes the reference number of ewes and governs the maximum payment attainable in 2024, and also sets the number of ewes which must be maintained throughout 2024.

An applicant can reduce their ewe numbers below the flock’s reference number and this becomes the new reference number for the relevant year.

The terms and conditions state that where this occurs it is the responsibility of the applicant to contact the Department immediately.

A failure to inform the Department in advance of payment or notice of an administration may result in an administrative penalty being applied (generally twice the shortfall in ewe numbers found).

It is also important to remind farmers who opted for the genotyped ram action in year 1 but who did not complete it that they must notify the Department of this change. Notifications can be sent via email to or in hardcopy form to Sheep Improvement Scheme, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Government Buildings, Old Abbeyleix Road, Portlaoise, Co. Laois, R32 RPA6.

Drafting considerations

The upturn in weather is welcomed, with ground getting a chance to soak and drafting of lambs much easier as a result. Ensure that withdrawal periods for any veterinary medicines administered have passed before drafting lambs.

For farmers that transferred lambs on to an intensive finishing diet in recent weeks, and particularly those finishing lambs intensively indoors, the duration between drafting lambs should be reduced to account for significantly higher performance and an improvement in lamb kill out.

Reports indicate lambs on an intensive finishing diet for a number of weeks are killing out in the region of 44% to 46% on average. Fat covers have also improved in the main, but there is still a significant percentage of lambs appearing short on flesh cover.

Weather checks

With sub-zero temperatures forecast in the coming days, it is worth checking that winter preparations are up to speed.

A check on antifreeze levels in farm vehicles should be ticked off, while it is also very worthwhile to give trailers a once over, in particular checking that lights are in working order.

A task rarely carried out but important in trailers frequently used is to check for wear and tear in the hitch of the trailer and ball hitch on the towing vehicle, along with brake cables etc.

2024 Lambplus deadline

The final date for applying for the 2024 LambPlus programme is Friday 1 December. Interested flock owners who have not applied need to act fast – visit for full details.