The conditions of the Sheep Welfare Scheme require new entrants to apply effectively within a year of starting their sheep enterprise, creating an anomalous situation that unfairly penalises them, IFA national sheep chair Sean Dennehy has said.

The IFA said the objective must be to accurately reflect the levels of activity on farms, with new entrants currently not having their sheep numbers recognised.

Dennehy said: “It takes time for any new entrant to build their production base and this is no different for sheep farmers.

“The requirement for new entrants to enter the scheme effectively within a year has resulted in these farmers having very low reference numbers.

“This anomaly has resulted in some farmers choosing not to enter the scheme because their reference numbers would be so low.”

Rolling reference

The IFA said the change to the scheme reference year now provides an opportunity to address both these situations for new entrants for 2021.

“New entrants who began sheep farming in 2020 must be provided with a rolling reference number for the period the flock is being established,” Dennehy continued.

“Also, new entrants who entered the scheme in 2016 and who were still in the process of building their flock numbers in 2017 must be provided with a later reference year that reflects the full level of activity on their farms.”

The IFA claims these amendments would supplement the 2017 reference year for established flocks and ensure all sheep farmers are fairly attributed a reference number.

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2020 reference year required for Sheep Welfare Scheme - INHFA