Westmeath man Sean McNamara has been elected to the position of ICSA sheep committee chairman at the association’s AGM and Annual Conference held in Portlaoise. Having served two years as vice committee chair Mr McNamara succeeds Roscommon sheep farmer John Brooks in the role.

Hailing from Lismacaffrey, Mr McNamara is married to Eleanor. Together they have four children, one of whom Shane, works with Sean in the running of their large ewe and cattle enterprise. “Numbers are running at approximately 800 ewes at present and 140 cattle, so we’re kept busy,” said Mr McNamara.

Outlining the main priorities of ICSA’s sheep committee for 2019 Mr McNamara said, “Our focus has to be on ensuring the best possible return for sheep farmers. We know the age profile of those in the sector continues to rise so if we are to have any hope of ensuring we have a sheep industry into the future we have to make it viable.”

“While we have had the welcome introduction of the Sheep Welfare Scheme, its value has been eroded by the constant imposition of other costs. These include the roll-out of EID tagging, the implementation of the Clean Livestock Policy (CLP) for sheep and various other levies, all of which take a big chunk out of already paltry incomes.”

“The area of sheep carcass trim will be another focus of ours. Overly zealous trimming of sheep carcasses is an ongoing worry with farmers who are reporting a kilo or more of a difference in kill out weights among various factories. As it stands, there is no EU legislative requirement for processors to classify sheep carcasses as is the case for cattle. Carcass trim, weights and grading are all at the discretion of the meat plant, and this has to end,” according to Mr McNamara.

Concluding Mr McNamara said it is possible to secure sheep farming remains an integral part of our vibrant agricultural mix. However, he said, “With margins so tight, every cent per kilo counts and every market counts. Together with my sheep committee, I will continue to push for the opening of new markets, be they for sheepmeat or for the live trade and for sheep farmers to get a fair and viable return for their hard work.”