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Minister Smith Launches €54 Million Grassland Sheep Scheme

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today launched a three-year, €54 million grassland sheep scheme.  Minister Smith said that this funding, which comes from the unused Single Payment funds, would "provide a very important and timely boost to support incomes in the sheep sector over the next three years."

Minister Smith said that "during the CAP Health Check negotiations, I had as one of my high priorities getting access to these CAP funds.  From the time it became clear this had been achieved, I identified the sheep sector as one that was vulnerable and in need of specific supports.  I am confident that this Scheme, which focuses on those flocks with breeding ewes, will maintain the breeding flock and will act as a real incentive to farmers anxious to maintain their production levels, which are essential for the future of a viable sheep industry in this country."

The Minister said that "today's announcement is further evidence of my commitment to this important sector and follows some €7 million which I allocated last year from the Single Payment National Reserve to approximately 13,000 hill sheep farmers under an Upland Sheep Payment Scheme. The Scheme being announced today applies to both hill and lowland sheep farmers."

The supply of lambs is a key and fundamental element underpinning the sheep and lamb processing industry.  This is a hugely valuable export-orientated part of the Irish agri-food sector, supplying a high-value product to consumer markets throughout Europe.  The industry is worth around €250 million to the Irish economy and over two thirds of the product is exported.

Minister Smith also said that the sector would benefit from a further €8 million, under the Rural Development Programme, for sheep fencing and mobile handling facilities to help sheep farmers in reducing labour input while Bord Bia will also spend up to €1 million this year on the promotion of sheep and lamb at home and abroad and Teagasc has allocated almost €1.5 million for sheep research.

The Minister said that "administrative simplicity" was a priority in the design of the Scheme and expressed his confidence that the Scheme being announced today has major advantages in that regard from both the sheep farmers and the Department's points of view.  In the case of the Department, all of the data relating to ewe numbers, required for administering the Scheme, will be held electronically while the area data is available through the Single Payment Scheme.  This will facilitate the Department making payments very shortly after the commencement date of 1 December 2010.  Farmers will also find the Scheme easy and their only requirements are to:

  • maintain sheep;
  • complete the Sheep Census return; and
  • submit the SPS application form by the closing date of 17th May 2010.

Minister Smith concluded by acknowledging that "Irish sheep farmers are facing significant production and demand pressures at present, though Ireland is not alone in this regard.  To maintain a viable industry, we must arrest the decline in reducing flock numbers, income pressures and producers leaving the sector.  I believe that this Grassland Sheep Scheme will achieve these aims and will provide a much needed and very valuable income support to an important and vulnerable sector."

7 April 2010


Note for Editors:

The following are among the key criteria for the operation of the Scheme

  • The rate payable per hectare will be based on the number of 2010 SPS eligible hectares declared or area deemed eligible for payment, whichever is the lower, using two stocking densities as follows:
    • 2.5 ewes per hectare for Mountain Type Grazing Land (as defined under the Less Favoured Areas Scheme);
    • 7 ewes per hectare for all other lands (including Most Severely, Less Severely Disadvantaged Area and non-Disadvantaged Areas)

  •  The ewe numbers eligible for inclusion in the 2010 Scheme will be based on the numbers as declared in the 2009 Sheep Census

  • The ewe numbers eligible for inclusion in the 2011 Scheme will be based on the average of the ewe numbers as declared in the 2009 and 2010 Sheep Census and the numbers eligible for inclusion in the 2011 Scheme will be based on the average of the ewe numbers as declared in the 2010 and 2011 Sheep Census.

  • The applicants must maintain sheep on an ongoing basis to retain eligibility for the 2011 and 2012 Schemes, i.e. he or she has to have sheep to declare in their 2011 and 2012 Sheep Census Sheep Returns

  • The maximum area payable is 84 hectares in respect of Mountain Type Grazing and 30 hectares for all other lands

  •  The farmer must submit an SPS application each year to be eligible for the Scheme

The indicative rates of aid for the Grassland Sheep Scheme are as follows:

Mountain Areas - 0 to 20 hectares  - €30 per hectare*

                          20 to 84 hectares -  €25 per hectare

Lowland Areas  - €70 per hectare.

* The additional payment (total payable €100) is in recognition of the difficulties facing hill sheep farming.

Some examples of these rates are outlined below;

210 Ewes   
 Mountain  Lowland 
 210 / 2.5 = 84 ha   210 / 7 = 30 ha   
 Total = €2,200  Total = €2,100

This is equivalent to a payment of €10.48 per ewe in the mountain areas and €10.00 per ewe elsewhere.

The same principle applies to farmers with similar flocks as is illustrated in the following examples:


 50 Ewes     
 Mountain  Lowland 
 50 / 2.5 = 20 ha  50 / 7 = 7.14     
 Total = €600.00     Total = €499.8 

This is equivalent to a payment of €12.00 per ewe in the mountain areas and €10.00 per ewe elsewhere.

 100 Ewes    
 Mountain  Lowland 
 100 / 2.5 = 40 ha   100 / 7 = 14.29 
 Total = €1,100  Total = €1,000.30  

This is equivalent to a payment of €11.00 per ewe in the mountain areas and €10.00 per ewe elsewhere.

 150 Ewes   
 Mountain  Lowland 
 150 / 2.5 = 60 ha   150 / 7 = 21.43 
 Total = €1,600  Total = €1,500.10 

This is equivalent to a payment of €10.67 per ewe in the mountain areas and €10.00 per ewe elsewhere.


uploaded 070410 - sheep pic                         uploaded 070410 - sheep photo

Date Released: 07 April 2010