Calls for farmers to be directly informed if their herd is TB restricted

The Department of Agriculture has been called on to directly inform farmers if their herds are restricted because of TB after a number of farmers found their cattle to be ‘trade suspended’ upon arrival at marts.

A number of farmers have presented cattle for sale in recent months only to find the cattle are ‘trade suspended’ by the Department’s movement system, however these farmers were not directly informed of this, according to ICOS.

Occurrences of this problem were outlined to the Department at the recent meeting of the Farmers Charter Monitoring Committee in December by Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) National Marts Executive, Ray Doyle.

The current TB rules are that, following the disclosure of reactors in a herd and subsequent categorisation of the breakdown as high-risk, notifications are issued to all ‘contiguous’ or adjoining herds.

A testing programme is undertaken only in those herds contiguous to the infected fragment and which are then also designated as ‘TB at risk’, ICOS said.

The process is different depending on whether the herd has been tested within the previous four months or not:

  1. Herds identified as being contiguous to the infective fragment(s), relevant to the breakdown and tested within the previous four months of the contiguous programme being set up, will still be required to carry out a TB test as normal four months after their last test. These herds will be free to trade until the four-month anniversary of their previous test.
  2. Herds identified as being contiguous to the infective fragment(s), relevant to the breakdown and not tested within the previous four months of the contiguous programme being set up will be immediately temporarily trade suspended, other than to slaughter, pending test outcome.

Doyle said that it’s essential that farmers are directly and rapidly informed if their animals are being restricted.

Otherwise they can face embarrassment and an unforeseen loss of income and cashflow if they are prohibited from trading.

“I welcome reassurances received from the Department that every effort is made by Regional Veterinary Offices to get in contact with herd owners to notify them when they are restricted.

“The Department also urged that any instances where it’s thought that the correct notification procedures were not carried out should be informed to the Department.”

The Department’s movement system, the Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) System, is a database which records all bovine birth, movements and disposals.

It details all animal movements and then uses this information to verify the origin, identity and life history of cattle entering the food chain.

The Department also uses it to check compliance of cattle with eligibility criteria of the Single Payment Scheme.

In this case, ICOS said that the AIM system can also be used to assist in the identification and tracing of bovines that may have come in contact with infectious diseases, for veterinary certification and to provide statistical information in respect of the cattle sector.

In relation to the potential for historically inconclusive animals be sold in marts, ICOS questioned the rationale behind an animal being inconclusive – potentially 10 years earlier and subsequently having numerous clear tests at the annual herd test – being restricted from sale at the mart.

According to ICOS, the Department confirmed at this meeting that any animal that has an inconclusive reactor reaction will be prevented from moving from the herd concerned for the duration of its lifetime, except to slaughter.

The Department also provided findings of research to ICOS that were carried out on the bovine TB (bTB) risk for Standard Inconclusive Reactors (SIRs) both prior to (at slaughter) and at the Inconclusive Reactor Re-test (IRR).

This showed that between 11.8% and 21.4% of SIRs slaughtered prior to the IRR were positive at post-mortem, compared to 0.13% to 0.22% of non-SIR animals, according to ICOS.

Where a standard inconclusive reactor has passed a retest then its passport will be stamped.

ICOS outlined that the purpose of the stamping is to ensure that the keeper will have a visible warning on the passport to prevent them inadvertently bringing the animal to the mart and having the sale refused by AIM.