However, Brexit helped breeders in the Czech Republic, because Britain was a large importer of meat into the EU. Interest in mutton and lamb as a regional food is also growing. The larger subsidy planned by the government for the first 150 hectares of land could also help.
Up to 18,000 sheep are kept in the south of Bohemia, the most of all regions. The problem is with the sale of wool nationwide. There are about 150,000 sheep in the Czech Republic, which produce approximately 450 tons of wool per year, but little of it is sold. “An enormous increase in the price of oil can help to balance the cost of production. What is happening now is still not enough. Wool for insulation must be washed and then re-impregnated against flammability – when washed, it is highly flammable. And they have to be sprayed against pests. It is an expensive production, against which fiberglass is still cheaper. As long as artificial fiber is cheaper than natural, sales will not increase,” said Jan Vejčík, chairman of the regional association of the union.
A new so-called redistributive payment could help, as sheep breeders are generally smaller farmers who farm on areas of up to 150 hectares. In the subsidy system for the years 2023 to 2027, the government plans to change the setting of this payment, which farmers receive for the first 150 hectares of land. It will be 23 percent of the amount for direct payments.
Breeders were helped by Brexit. “Britain was a huge importer of meat into the European Union, and meat from Australia also flowed through it. After Brexit, they have worse conditions for imports. It is necessary to take advantage of this and negotiate better purchase prices for meat,” said Vejčík. At the same time, interest in mutton and lamb is growing, people are looking more for local food. The association supplies meat to the Globus chain, Vejčík itself every week and to one Budejovice butcher shop. Meat producers do well at Easter. “Restaurants are starting to learn and rely on local resources,” said Vejčík.
In South Bohemia, the union has around 120 members, their number is decreasing. According to the chairman, this is a general trend in sheep farming. The number of animals is also decreasing. There are more reasons. According to Vejčík, sheep breeding is much more demanding than cattle breeding or crop production. “Dairy cattle, on the other hand, have a much greater value of money earned per unit of labor provided. Young people choose less hard work. Then comes the ban on clipping tails with rubber rings, the ban on making hooves by the breeder; if he doesn’t have a course, he’s got to do it with a cleaver,” said the chairman. Wolves are also a problem. When a breeder loses half of his flock because of them, he wonders whether to risk the sheep again, said Vejčík. In the region, most sheep are kept in the border areas. In the area from Nová Bystřice to Šumava.
Vejčík continues the family tradition as a breeder. He graduated from the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of South Bohemia. At first he repaired electronics, but then he took over the farm near Horní Stropnice, where his grandparents came from. Originally, 12 hectares belonged to him, now he farms 120 hectares by himself, only during the period of childbirth he is helped by female students from the secondary veterinary school in Budějovice. The herd has 260 dams plus breeding rams, up to 400 lambs are born there every year. He also breeds beef cattle.