THE IRISH CATTLE and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) has called on the government to take action on the increasing problem of sheep thefts around the country.
The ICSA said thefts are happening on a weekly basis with large numbers of sheep being taken from farms.
“In the last six months up to 200 sheep were taken in Roundwood in Co Wicklow, around 80 were taken in Donegal and they’re worth about €100 each to the farmer,” Paul Brady, ICSA National Sheep Committee Chairman told TheJournal.ie.
“It’s very well orchestrated, it’s not being done by your ordinary Joe soap, there are gangs going around specialising in this and they have the know-how.”
“And where are you meant to go when it happens?” he said. “If you go to the Gardaí all that is, is a counselling service.”
“There has been not a bit of progress on this and talking to the Department of Agriculture you hit a stonewall, they just don’t want to get into it.”
In response to Brady’s comments, the Department of Agriculture said it provides Gardaí with any assistance possible in relation to investigations into stolen sheep and has helped secure successful prosecutions.
Brady said one of the main issues of contention was the tagging system which he would like changed.
“There are far too many tags being issued to some farmers, especially compared to the system for cattle,” he said. “If you have 100 ewes you can order 1000 tags which leaves a lot of extra tags meaning stolen sheep can be re-tagged.”
Brady also said there is a need for a sheep database similar to that of cattle to help keep track of herds.
“We’ve been talking about a pilot scheme as well for some timec to put bolus, like micro chips with dogs, into the stomach, then when they’re slaughtered we can identify where they came out of and there’d be a higher chance of being caught.”
The department said flock owners who are concerned about the security of their sheep have the option to identify their lambs with a bolus set.
Brady said the thefts are having a “big impact” on farmers because it is pulling back the prices for ordinary farmers and will continue to affect them until changes are made.