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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 20 September, 2018
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'Angry' farmers fear new sheep inspections will put pregnant ewes at risk

Sheep farmer representatives plan to meet with government officials to discuss their problems with the inspections.

Image: Birgit Urban via Shutterstock

FARMERS HAVE EXPRESSED their concern at State sheep inspections, which are scheduled to take place during lambing season.

Farmers have said that the process of gathering sheep for them to be counted and inspected may place undue stress on more vulnerable animals such as pregnant sheep, and have criticised the timing of the inspections.

Recent sub-zero conditions and just a few days notice before inspections have also caused problems for farmers preparing for the recently introduced inspections.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Association’s national sheep chairperson John Brooks said that this was “absolutely” a problem and it “shouldn’t have to happen” at this time of year.

It should be carried out in the field without having to gather the sheep up – it’s a huge welfare issue.

The inspections are part of the government’s newly introduced Sheep Welfare Scheme, which gives grants to farmers as long as they comply with inspections.

Under those rules, inspectors will “verify compliance by examination of applicants’ animal remedies, feed and mineral supplement records and where applicable flock register and dispatch dockets to ensure animal treatments and other requirements are in accordance with the scheme”.

It added that farmers will be notified a “maximum of 48 hours in advance” and “ewes must be penned for inspection”.

shutterstock_403174960 Source: Shutterstock

Brooks said that when gathering young lambs and heavily pregnant ewes to place them in pens for them to be inspected, you “run the risk of injuring” those vulnerable animals.

“We’re going to schedule a meeting with the Department of Agriculture,” he told TheJournal.ie, adding that the government understood farmers’ issues, but this was just a reminder to give vulnerable animals consideration.

Sinn Féin’s agriculture spokesperson and Leitrim-Sligo TD Martin Kenny said that he had been contacted by a few “angry” farmers over the timing of these sheep inspections.

He said that farmers “are being forced to gather all their sheep both on lowlands and the mountains and pen them up for the Department to inspect them”.

“Surely, the Minister and his Departmental officials know that we are heading into lambing season and sheep are heavily pregnant and vulnerable at this time of year?

“It is recognised that stress to sheep is a major cause of sheep aborting lambs and also causes difficulties and complications during the lambing process.

He added that “severe weather” over the last number of weeks has caused problems for farmers; added to this is the fact that they’ve only received a couple of days notice of when sheep need to be gathered.

“I understand that farm inspections are part of the Department’s remit, but now is not the time to be inspecting heavily pregnant sheep. The Minister and his Department must use some common sense and stop these inspections until lambing season is over.”

The sheep chairperson at Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Sean Dennehy said that at this time of year 2.5 million ewes prepare for lambing.

“There is a provision in the Farmers’ Charter of Rights that ‘with inspections involving sheep, the Department will take account of the circumstances and follow agreed protocols in relation to penning at lambing time’.

The Department has to take account of this unique situation and adopt an approach that is both practical and flexible.

The Department of Agriculture didn’t respond to request for comment at the time of publication.

Read: Farmers are calling a fodder crisis …but the government says there is sufficient supply

Read: ‘Nobody should live in fear due to lack of garda resources’: 45% of all agricultural crime not reported to gardaí

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