The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has moved to reject comments from a Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine official on the TB herd risk assessment letters that were sent to farmers last year.

Hugh Farrell, the association’s animal health and welfare chairperson, disputed a comment from the department official who suggested that farm organisations had agreed to the move to send out the letters.

“There was categorically no agreement that these letters should be sent out in the manner in which they were sent,” Farrell insisted.

He was responding to a comment a department official made at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine last week, when TB eradication was up for discussion.

According to Farrell, the department defended the move to issue the letters by referring to a report titled: ‘Bovine TB Stakeholder Forum Interim Report – Disease Policy and Working in Partnership’, published in 2019.

The ICSA animal health chair noted that this report stated: “When farmers have a breakdown, the notification sent to them by [the department] could be amended to include a summary of their bTB history and of inward movements into their herd in the previous five years.”

Responding to this, Farrell said: “The passage refers to ‘reactor packs’ which indicates that this type of letter could be used as part of an overall response to a TB breakdown.

It in no way implies that this type of letter would be – or should be – sent out to all farmers.

Farrell claimed: “The reality is that these letters were a product of farmer representatives being ignored, while department officials drove on with dubious actions such as explicit herd categorisation, which had been categorically rejected at the TB Forum.”