With inspections likely to start soon, NFU Scotland has reminded sheep producers who had applied to the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme of the importance of complying with its key requirements.
Designed to assist active hill farmers and crofters through a payment coupled to the number of home-bred ewe hoggs they keep as breeding replacements for their flocks, the scheme has a retention period for these animals which runs until 31 March.
With a budget of €8 million (about £6.8m) a year, the payment rate per head varies depending on the total number of animals claimed across the country in the scheme year.
Last year’s payments were equivalent to €78 per eligible ewe hogg – well below the Scottish Government’s original €100 estimate, according to the union’s livestock policy manager John Armour – due to significantly more animals being claimed than had been expected.
Armour said: “It is anticipated that the number of claimed hoggs may have increased again.”
Stating that the scheme remained a vital funding strand for Scotland’s hill farmers, he said it was crucial full records were kept of the numbers and location of eligible ewe hoggs – and that if the number of qualifying animals dropped below the claim level, the Scottish Government should be informed.
“Taking a few steps to ensure compliance with scheme rules will help ensure any flock inspection will go as smoothly as possible,” he said.