The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said that agriculture minister’s commitment to re-establish the National Deer Management Forum Group is a positive first step but a coordinated approach is needed.

Minister Charlie McConalogue has committed to re-establishing forum group to help to control that national deer population to a sustainable level.

IFA Animal Health chair, TJ Maher, said: “The control of deer nationally requires a coordinated approach, which must include a focus on addressing the deer population surrounding TB [tuberculosis] outbreaks.

“The TB Implementation Group must be given the opportunity to feed into the terms of reference for the re-established deer management group to ensure it delivers on two key objectives.”

The objectives are a comprehensive management programme to reduce the numbers of deer in areas when associated with TB outbreaks and a national management programme to reduce the levels to deer to numbers that are sustainable within their natural habitat throughout the country.

The Animal Heath chair said the deer population is causing crop and fencing damage; spread of disease; and road safety concerns across the country.

“The Northern Ireland open season for most species of deer is longer than ours. This is an example of an area that will need to be addressed by the Deer Management Group when the terms of reference are agreed,” Maher said.

“It’s important that the terms of reference are agreed as soon as possible and a chairperson with the competencies to deal with this complex issue is put in place to ensure the group gets up and running without delay”.

TB forum

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Minister McConalogue commended the TB Stakeholder Forum on the progress they have made in reducing levels of bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

The minister attended the 13th meeting of the forum on May 4, where he was presented with an update on the progress of the implementation of the TB Eradication Strategy, which was launched in January 2021.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) launched the strategy with the aim of significantly lowering and eradicating the disease by 2030. According to the minister, the majority of the actions set out under it have been implemented or are almost at implementation stage.