Over 44,000 sheep and goat keepers registered on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s database have received their Annual Sheep and/or Goat Census 2016 forms.
This year the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has selected Saturday 31st December 2016 as the census date. Completing and returning the census is a legal obligation. The onus remains with the flock/herd keeper to make sure that completed census forms are received by the closing date of 31st January 2017.
The census provides valuable statistical information to the Department and other organisations involved in the development of the industry. More importantly for farmers, submission of a completed Census is central in declaring that required stocking rates are being maintained and facilitates the drawing down of payments under schemes such as the Basic Payment Scheme, Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme, AEOS, GLAS etc. and also the new Sheep Welfare Scheme announced in the Budget.
With regard to the new Sheep Welfare Scheme, it should be noted that while the census figures submitted for December 2014 and December 2015 will be used as the historic reference, it will be a requirement of the scheme that flock keepers continue to submit their annual census in a timely manner. Census information is also used during farm/flock inspections where the inspector has details of the census returns submitted for the holding in the last four or five years. This information is used as the basis for identifying whether animal records have been adequately maintained.
2016 census returns may be returned either by post via the enclosed addressed envelope to Seefin Data Management, PO Box 17, An Post, Cahirdown, Listowel D.S.U, Co Kerry or online via agfood.ie, no later than 31st January 2017. Failure to return the census on time may impact on future related payments from this Department.
Keepers should be aware that, in the case of dispute regarding postal returns, the only acceptable proof of postage is a Registered or Express Post receipt. A postal certificate is no longer acceptable as proof of postage.
Online returns can be made between 31st December 2016 and 31st January 2017 by users registered with agfood.ie. The Department has recently made improvements to this facility which will make online completion more efficient and user-friendly and will also give farmers access to historic sheep and/or goat census information submitted by them.
Farmers not already registered with agfood.ie can do so by logging on to www.agfood.ie and clicking the option to register. It should be noted that the closing date of 31 January 2017 also applies to online Census returns so users registering for access to agfood.ie for the first time should allow sufficient time for their log-on details, which will allow access to all relevant online services, to be sent to them by post after they register. These logon details will be required to allow online completion of the census.