6 November 1998

Massive sheep cull planned in Ireland

THEIrish government is planning a massive sheep cull in a bid to tackle overgrazing.

The £6m scheme, awaiting final approval in Brussels, is expected to kick off within weeks. It could result in 200,000 ewes taken from hill and mountain areas.

John Thorley, chief executive of the UKs National Sheep Association, says any move to cut long-term production is good news.

His fear, though, is that low mainland prices could be depressed further. But a spokesperson for the Irish Department of Agriculture said no meat was destined for consumption. NFU livestock adviser Kevin Pearce describes the proposal as "dual-purpose", recognising the overgrazing issue and the problems in marketing cull ewes.

Lessons can be learned from the Irish action, says Mr Pearce. A £10m fodder scheme and a £2.75m sheep headage top-up plan were announced in Dublin at the same time as the de-stocking programme.

Scottish Crofters Union president John Mackintosh has written to Government this week requesting intervention in the face of "failed" attempts to revive the sheep market.

He said: "We recommend that some means is found to intervene in the market to remove surplus stock." &#42