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Policy of Increasing Sheep Numbers Bad for Farmers, ICSA Says

19 February 2016

IRELAND - Any policy that focuses on increasing sheep numbers is bad news for sheep farmers, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) sheep chairman John Brooks has insisted.

“The decline in sheep numbers across Europe over the past 20 years has resulted in increased prices due to scarcity.” Mr Brooks was speaking at an ICSA Spring Sheep Seminar held in Mountbellew Agricultural College.

He said ICSA’s position is to oppose any scheme, such as an EU wide coupled ewe premium, which would serve only to increase numbers and decrease price. “A universal premium would disrupt the fine balance between supply and demand which has been working well for us in recent times.

"We have to be cognisant of the fact that sheepmeat consumption has been in decline over those 20 years also. As such, any incentive for farmers to increase numbers would be counter productive. ICSA believes it would be far better to focus on a targeted sheep scheme within the rural development programme in Ireland.”

Mr Brooks praised the staff and students of Mountbellew College who pulled out all the stops to cater for the event which attracted up to 100 farmers from near and far. Those in attendance were treated to staff presentations in both the ewe and suckler sheds where details were shared about the innovative ways in which they manage their herds and flocks.

“It’s a busy time here at Mountbellew with the lambing season in full swing. There are also 34 left to calve in the Limousin suckler herd so the staff here have indeed been extremely gracious with their time and advice,” he said.

Tim Keady, principal sheep research scientist with Teagasc kicked off the evening session. He outlined his research into profitable prime lamb production, giving great tips on ewe nutrition in late pregnancy, and breeding ewe lambs. Agricultural Consultant Eoghan Finneran then gave an insightful talk on using mixed species pasture and how it can lead to increased production.

Concluding a trio of expert guest speakers was veterinary consultant John Gilmore who presented on parasite control and anthelmintic resistance in sheep. Lots of questions followed from enthusiastic attendees eager to benefit from the expertise at hand.

On behalf of everyone at ICSA, Mr Brooks said he “would like to thank the main sponsor Chanelle Veterinary and all our other sponsors including Cormac Tags & Sheep Equipment, Animax, Paul & Vincent, and Dolan Farm Supplies for their contribution to such a successful event.”

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