New ‘simplified’ letters on TB risk categories to issue to farmers

A newly-developed individualised letter, providing TB-related information for herds, will issue to farmers over the coming weeks, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has confirmed.

An individualised herd risk categorisation has been provided to herdowners in TB-related correspondence that farmers have received from the department for a number of years.

However, a department spokesperson explained that this information is “not intuitive and is of limited benefit in informing efforts by farmers to reduce a herd’s risk of TB”.

The intention of this new initiative is to provide details to farmers about a herd’s risk category that is “simple, clear and conveys sufficient information to enable farmers to make the decisions appropriate to their situation”, the spokesperson added.

The individual letters that will now issue to farmers are set to provide a “simplified” herd risk category, with herd-specific advice on how to reduce the herd’s risk of TB.

The department also highlighted that the incidents of the disease have been creeping up over the last four years.

Herd incidence (on a 12-month rolling basis) has breached 4% for the first time since 2012, while reactor numbers (also on a 12-month rolling basis) are approaching 20,000 – the highest figure since 2010.

“Every single TB restriction poses significant challenges for the farm family concerned, so we must do everything we can to reduce the risk,” the spokesperson added.

New minister

The roll-out of this initiative will be one of the first tasks of new Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary, who was appointed yesterday, Wednesday, July 15.

Following his appointment, the minister was welcomed by most farm organisations, but was also reminded of the priorities for the sector.

Macra na Feirme president Thomas Duffy said: “We are looking forward to meeting and discussing the concerns of young farmers… It is a critical time for several matters facing young farmers, such as the upcoming CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] discussions at home and at European level.”

Meanwhile, Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan said that Minister Calleary “must hit the ground running”.

Cullinan said: “The European Council meeting on Friday and Saturday, July 17 and 18, where the EU and CAP budgets for the next seven years will be discussed, is absolutely critical for Irish farming.

“It is vital that the new minister stresses the importance of this to the Taoiseach, who will be representing Ireland at the meeting,” the IFA president added.