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Next CAP: What does 2023 and beyond hold for sheep farmers?

In this article, That’s Farming, looks at what the new CAP’s Sheep Improvement Scheme has in store for farmers.

With the new CAP strategic plan commencing contracts on January 1st, 2023, sheep farmers are curious to know what financial opportunities are ahead.

The Sheep Improvement Scheme (SIS) is the successor of the current Sheep Welfare Scheme (SWS) in 2023.

The proposed €20 million per annum Sheep Improvement Scheme announces payment of €12/ewe, which will be available to 1.7 million ewes.

According to the most recent census figures, there are over 2.6 million ewes in Ireland.

With these figures, this scheme is inadequate in terms of sustainable funding. Farm groups, such as IFA and ICSA, are currently proposing amendments to the sheep element of the CAP strategic plan.

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Sheep Improvement Scheme: Measures 

The measures involved in the Sheep Improvement Scheme are very similar to what is already put in place with the Sheep Welfare Scheme, with some exceptions.

In category A, the options are similar to what is already in place with the current SWS, including:

  • Lameness control;
  • Parasite control (faecal egg testing);
  • Mineral supplementation for ewes post-mating.

There is, however, a change in category B, which is the purchase of a genotyped ram. The options for category B in SIS 2023 include:

  • Flystrike control;
  • Scanning of ewes and recording results;
  • Purchasing of a genotyped ram.

Like what is in place, farmers cannot choose two options from category A or two options from category B. Pick one action from each category.

Benefit of the extra option in category B: genotyping

Genotyping of stock rams is very important. As rams die, having a verified DNA sample from your ram will ensure that any progeny will be verified in the future.

Furthermore, stock rams now require genotyping for the new LambPlus programme. Any lamb born in 2022 from a sire that is not genotyped, will no longer receive €urostars.

Once completed, the ram is genotyped for life.

Lowland requirements

Should a lowland flock intend to choose the option of purchasing a geno-typed ram, they must ensure the ram is genotyped with a 4 to 5-star evaluation.

The farmer should complete this measure, of buying a genotyped ram, at least one, between 2023 and 2027.

In addition to this, the ram should have a scrapie status of 1, 2 or 3.

Should your flock contain over 150 breeding ewes, complete this action twice between 2023 and 2027.


Agricultural representative bodies such as the ICSA have made a number of proposals to the government’s new CAP strategic plan.

In Pillar 1, this includes a transfer of €80 million from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2, with a view to making extra funding available to pay for schemes such as the Sheep Efficiency Programme in Pillar 2.

Other representative bodies such as IFA have supported this proposal with an increment in the funding available to sheep farmers.

Stocking rate

The DAFM is, in 2022, advising sheep farmers of minimum stocking rates to qualify for their annual Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payment

This includes the requirements for the active farmer check. This check is aimed to ensure farmers are adhering to minimum stocking density.

In this instance, for 2022/23, it is 0.15 LU per hectare. A sheep is 0.15 LU. This means keeping 1 ewe/ha will qualify you for your annual BPS.

Sheep farming

There are currently 34,254 sheep flocks in Ireland.

Should you be interested in becoming a sheep farmer, you can complete a flock number application, which you can find on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s website.

Outlook for sheep farmers

In 2021, Teagasc predicted a 23% increase in net margin per Ha for the sheep sector.

The future profitability potential for the sector may encourage new entrants to sheep farming or flock expansion for those farmers interested in taking over the family farm.

The sheep sector has the ability to offer huge environmental and socio-economic benefits in areas of the country which would otherwise be neglected.

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