45 south Kerry herds locked up with TB with more detections likely

Some 45 herds in south Kerry are currently locked up with tuberculosis (TB) and there is no sign of the problem slowing down, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) Kerry chairman Pat O’Driscoll.

The Iveragh Peninsula has been hit by the worst TB outbreak in living memory, which stretches back into 2016, he said.

In excess of 150 farmers attended a meeting in Caherciveen yesterday at 11:30am to discuss the problem facing farmers in the area at present.

Speaking to AgriLand, O’Driscoll said: “There has been 74 reactor herds detected on the peninsula and 45 herds are currently locked up.

“In 2017, there was a total of 302 reactors; 100 of those were detected on two farms.”

A couple of small farmers on the peninsula have decided to get out of farming as a result of the outbreak, he added.

We wouldn’t have had a history of TB here; there may have been one reactor per 20 farmers every 10 years or so. It is definitely the worst outbreak in living memory.

A road map of what can be done by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as well as the farmers in the area, to combat the outbreak was sought at the meeting.

Challenges

The fact that farms on the peninsula are fragmented is leading to the disease outbreak being more difficult to curtail, O’Driscoll said.

“Farms here are fragmented and there is a lot of movement of cattle. At the meeting, farmers were advised to secure boundaries and to prevent nose-to-nose contact.

They were also advised to rise water troughs at least 30in off the ground to prevent badgers bathing in them and drinking from them.

It is believed that the current TB outbreak on the peninsula originated from a dormant strain of TB that – for some reason – was activated in 2016, the chairman explained.

Following an initial cluster of seven or eight farms where TB was detected, five dead badgers were found in fields nearby. It is understood that the badgers died as a result of the disease, O’Driscoll said.

The badger population is thought to be quite high in the area and there has been “an explosion” in the deer population on the peninsula over the past five or 10 years, he added.

‘Action is needed’

O’Driscoll believes that the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and his officials must recognise the enormous financial burden that TB controls impose on farmers.

Where controls are deemed necessary to achieve eradication, farmers must be fully compensated for the disruption and costs imposed on their business.

The IFA has also called for changes to the live valuation scheme that will ensure farmers are fully compensated for the animals they lose; it claims to have identified shortcomings of up to €300 in the scheme for some animals.

Further amendments to the income supplement scheme are also being sought by the association. These have to fully address the actual income loss experienced by farmers due to TB breakdowns, according to the IFA.

Vaccination programme

Meanwhile, O’Driscoll believes that the Iveragh Peninsula would be an ideal candidate for a pilot project for the vaccination of badgers.

Also Read: Badgers to be vaccinated as part of bovine TB eradication programme

All the resources necessary must be provided in the south Kerry area to bring this problem under control, he said.

Apart from the financial loss, there is also the emotional trauma for a farmer when the herd is taken away. The impact of this is incalculable.

“It can take years for a farm to get over a TB outbreak,” he concluded.