As a registered sheep or goat keeper, you should have received a census form from the Department of Agriculture in early December. The census date for 2015 was Sunday December 13th so it is the number of animals present on your holding on that date that should be included on the form. Completing the return is a legal obligation however it has many practical uses including facilitating the draw-down of many payments including the Area of Natural Constraints (old Disadvantaged Scheme), AEOS, GLAS and Organics.
If you examine the census returns in recent years you will find a very dramatic upturn in the number of goats and goat farmers in Ireland. This can largely be explained by the introduction of a combined form for both sheep and goats in 2013. This identified many registered sheep keepers who were also keeping small numbers of goats but were not registered goat keepers. However, what it does not explain is the very substantial increase in larger herds. In 2012 (before the combined form) there were a total of 31 herds of over 50 goats containing a total of 6,056 animals. The relevant comparative figures for 2014 are 70 herds containing 10,771 animals. This increase has to be indicative of the rapidly rising interest in goats and their products.
Furthermore, the recent increase in recorded goat figures show that goats are far more numerous than previously estimated. It is therefore hugely important that more goat-specific guidelines and legislation are created, particularly with regard to animal health and movement. As an expanding sector they may more often included in devising future schemes and programmes. In addition, many goat farms (including those with far less than 50 goats) add value to their products which has substantial impact on farm income and the local economy.
I'm certain there are even more goats out there so make sure you complete your form (further details available here) or submit online through agfood.ie by 29th January and show how important goats are to agriculture in Ireland.