Cattle farmers in Co. Wicklow are in dire straits when it comes to TB outbreaks, according to IFA’s Tom Short.

Short, the Wicklow County Chairman, said the high prevalence of TB has resulted in some farmers moving away from cattle production.

Figures obtained by Agriland show that Wicklow, both East and West, had the highest incidence of TB reactors of any region in Ireland during the first ten months of the year.

And Short added that despite the incidents of the disease falling in East Wicklow recently, it is now becoming a major problem in the West and the South of the county.

“The figures are not surprising, there are a lot of farmers in dire straights. It has been one step forwards and two steps backwards for many farmers,” he said.

The disease has limited the production potential on many farms in Co. Wicklow, he said, as cattle farmers are not able to move forward due to the fear of a TB outbreak.

It is not a new phenomenon, we seen the same problems over the past 20-25 years. Since then some farmers have been forced out of cattle production. TB has put them out of business.

Along with the worry of failing an annual TB test, Short said farmers stock can be devalued as a result of the disease, with many buyers rejecting cattle from known TB hot spots due to the fear of importing TB onto their farms.

Why is the TB so common in Wicklow?

Short said the causes of TB in Wicklow can be compared to a three-legged stool, as cattle, deer and badgers all graze and forage along side each other in the Leinster county.

The land usage in Co. Wicklow can also be blamed, he said, with only 33% of the land being used for agricultural production, while the remaining 66% is made up of forestry or OPW ground.

And given the closeness of many farms and forests, there is bound to be some crossover between the deer and cattle population.

To resolve the issue, Short said that the various stakeholders need to ensure that there is proper management protocol introduced to ensure that the deer population is controlled.

“There is no point in farmers trying to control TB, when their next door neighbours are doing nothing,” he said.

The deer population has gotten out of control as they have no natural predators. TB is a disease of over population.

The Wicklow IFA representative also said that TB costs farmers in East Wicklow in the region of €1.5m per year.

Meanwhile a Department survey, carried out last year, has also shown that deer are carriers of TB, he said.

He added that the IFA has worked long and hard to ensure that Wicklow voices are heard when it comes to protecting their livelihoods from TB.