TB exemption has resulted in more ‘robust and stronger calves’ being sold – ICOS

The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) has met with the new Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue and raised the challenges facing the livestock marts sector including the threat of TB.

They also expressed concern that animals unsold at marts and returned will be negatively affected under the department’s TB Herd Risk category proposal.

The ICOS delegation was led by ICOS president Jerry Long and CEO TJ Flanagan.

Jerry Long said:

In relation to TB, we highlighted the positive impact of the 42-day exemption granted during the Covid-19 lockdown and urged the minister to extend the exemption due to its positive impact on the calf trade.

“This has resulted in more robust and stronger calves being presented for sale during the spring with real benefits for animal welfare.”

‘Unprecedented challenges’

Long continued:

We discussed the unprecedented challenges facing the agri-food sector due to Covid-19 and Brexit.

“We talked about the worrying developments in the UK concerning the Brexit negotiations and the requirement for the department to deliver substantial support for the sector under the EU’s €5 billion Brexit Adjustment Fund.

“We also urged the minister to introduce an income volatility tool based on the ICOS ‘5-5-5’ proposal in the forthcoming budget to enable farmers to use periods when market returns are higher to create a modest rainy-day fund to support them during periods when market returns are weaker.

“The environmental challenges facing the sector, the Common Agricultural Policy [CAP] reform and the continuation of live exports were also key issues raised by ICOS.

The minister acknowledged the tremendous efforts made by co-op management and boards in particular to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 over the peak milk production period and across the milk production supply chain.

“The efforts made by co-op trading stores and the mart network to keep customers and rural communities safe was also acknowledged.”

‘Deeply concerned’

Long added that the co-op sector is “deeply concerned by the potential anti-competitive implications of the new veterinary medicines regulation”.

“We made it very clear to the minister that the viability of the licensed merchant network is at risk should the Department of Agriculture interpret the regulation in a manner that will restrict competition and provide one sector with a captive market.”