The Sheep Welfare Scheme was introduced in December 2016 to contribute to the continuing viability and sustainability of the sheep sector in Ireland. The Scheme is programmed under Measure 14 of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014 - 2020 and it complements the range of other RDP supports available to sheep farmers under schemes such as GLAS, TAMS, Knowledge Transfer and the Areas of Natural Constraint scheme.
The 2nd amendment to the RDP introduced the Sheep Welfare Scheme. The financial allocation for the scheme was provided for in the RDP by way of additional national financing.
In order to underpin the delivery of value for money from the investment in the RDP, extensive preparatory analyses form the basis of all the schemes and measures in the RDP. In relation to the sheep scheme, these analyses highlighted particular viability issues within the sheep sector as well as pointing to a strong economic rationale for investing in animal health and welfare. The sheep sector supports 35,000 farm families directly, as well as several thousand other jobs directly and indirectly in the rural economy. In 2017 exports from the sector were worth €274 million, an increase of 12% compared to 2016.
The actions chosen for targeted support under the scheme were those identified as making a meaningful positive contribution to sheep welfare having regard to the systems of production in Ireland and the environment in which Irish sheep production is carried out. This in turn will have a positive impact on the overall sheep sector.
The scheme will also allow for the collection and generation of valuable data on welfare statistics and practices in sheep farming in Ireland. The data generated by this scheme has the potential to make a significant contribution to the Irish sheep industry beyond the lifetime of the scheme in terms of its ability to provide large scale data on welfare in Irish flocks.