‘Small cattle farm inspections unfair’

Why are inspectors of cattle herds obliged to examine all the cattle in small herds and only a percentage in larger herds. This was the question, put by Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in Dail Eireann recently. Ó Cuív claims the current practice is “unfair to the owners of smaller herds”.

The department is required to carried out annual inspections covering both the eligibility of the land declared to draw down payments and also cross-compliance aspects, to ensure adherence with EU regulatory requirements in the areas of public, animal and plant health, environment and animal welfare and ensuring that the farm is maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition.

European legislation dictates the minimum numbers and types of inspections that must be conducted each year. These inspections are a necessary requirement in order to draw down approximately €1.7bn of EU funds annually and to avoid EU disallowances, the minister insisted in reply to the questioning. “My department must therefore ensure that these inspections are conducted in full accordance with the legislative provisions.”

EU legislation governing cattle identification and registration requires that three per cent of farmers must be inspected. This legislation also requires that all animals in a herd are checked, however by way of derogation sampling is allowed in herds of greater than 20 animals.

“My department have availed of this option in order to reduce the workload on farmers in assembling all animals in larger herds for an inspection. This option also goes some way in reducing the length of time it takes to complete an inspection,” the minister explained.

Calves on grass. Photo O’Gorman Photography