If you take the TB issue out of the debate, deer are an economic issue to farmers because they’re grazing them out of grass, Jim Ruttle, Independent Councillor for Baltinglass, has said at a meeting on the deer problem facing Wicklow farmers.

The meeting, organised by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) attracted over 60 farmers to the Glen Lounge in Wicklow last night.

Deer are on farmers’ land, tearing down fences and eating their grass, even if they never gave your cattle TB, Ruttle said.

“They’re there by daylight and they eat the hay out of the round feeders that are used for the cattle.

“I’ve heard descriptions about how many deer farmers have seen in their fields and if you saw that number of cattle in a field, you’d go out there, round them up, get one tag number and you could deal with it.

Here you have an unknown, unidentifiable, mobile eating machine in your field. How do you deal with it?

“It has to be dealt with. It’s an economic issue. I would find that recreational shooters can’t deal with this issue. You can’t deal with it that way where they come in and shoot a few now and again.

“The numbers are so big that it has to be much more organised and much more professionally done.

“It can be brought to an acceptable level but it means a lot of commitment.”

What’s the difference between deer destroying your herd with TB and grazing out your farm and a dog pulling out two ewes?

“You could shoot the dog, but what can you do with the deer?”

Ruttle said that deer are doing damage to farmers and that it has to be stopped.

“It’s enough to be dealing with poor prices, to deal with the outcome of Brexit, but to battle with the deer population as farmers in west Wicklow is very galling and hard. We have to find a way through this.”

Ruttle said that the bigger deer numbers coming down on farmers land is to do with migration from the mountains, that there’s a lack of palatable grass on the mountains.

“There’s not as many sheep on the mountains as there used to be – that means that the vegetation [isn’t being grazed enough] and it’s unpalatable for the deer.” He also said that the lack of burning is a problem as well.

The Independent Councillor, who is also a farmer himself, said that farmers’ relationships with the National Parks, with Coillte and all the groups that own land separately to farmers is awful.

I would be one of those people that would own land adjoining forestry land. In the early days when the forestry was planted, if one of your cattle got into that land they would hang you.

But once the trees became well established, there was no interest in Coillte whatsoever, he said.