Hill farmers in the new National Sheep Welfare Scheme can avail of later completion dates for two actions in the scheme.

Following a meeting with Department of Agriculture officials, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) said that there had been concern over the completion date for the plunge dipping measure of 15 October.

INHFA vice-president Micheál McDonnell said the date “was problematic for many hill flocks where sheep would still be on the hills and in many cases would not be down until November”.

Beyond the plunge dipping, there was, he added, also concern that this date may be too early for those farmers choosing the clostridial vaccine measure.

As farmers will have to choose between either plunge dipping or clostridial vaccination, McDonnell said it is “vital that we get flexibility around these two options”.

“Farmers can now avail of a later completion date for both their actions of 25 November 2024, but, importantly, they must notify the Department by email to sheepschemes@agriculture.gov.ie before 15 September 2024. The Department will acknowledge all such requests and respond to the farmer.”


However, McDonnell also exercised a note of caution, stating that “where a farmer avails of the later completion date, it will mean their payment under the scheme will not be paid until the end of December or early January”.

For farmers interested in joining the scheme, McDonnell detailed how it consists of four possible measures, equally applicable to upland and lowland flocks, and grouped into two categories as follows:

  • Category A: shearing or body condition scoring of ewes.
  • Category B: clostridial vaccination of ewes (or lambs if ewes are already vaccinated) or plunge dipping of ewes.
  • Farmers joining the scheme must indicate at application stage which options they intend to carry out by selecting one from each category.

    The maximum number of breeding ewes eligible for payment under the scheme will be determined by reference to the numbers declared for each participating flock in the sheep census returns from 2020 to 2023.