The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has stressed that prevention of disease remains key to limiting significant financial losses to farmers.

Speaking at the launch of a new consultation process on the development of a New Farmed Animal Health strategy framework, Minister Creed said a coherent and robust animal health strategy has the capability to deliver very significant savings.

And, he said this has been evidenced in the progress being made on the BVD eradication programme.

“The existence of sub-optimal animal health impacts negatively at individual farm level, on processor returns, on the environment and ultimately on international trade and domestic employment levels.

“In addition, zoonotic infections in animals as well as the avoidable use of antibiotics in animals may impact on public health.” said Minister Creed.

The Minister noted that the livestock sector represented almost 90% of Ireland’s gross agricultural output, as well as forming the critical element of the € 10.8 billion in agri-food exports in 2015.

“It is therefore opportune to work towards the creation of a national strategy framework that will guide the development and implementation of policies and programmes towards making a lasting and continuous improvement in the health and welfare of farmed animals in Ireland.

“The new strategy will be developed in tandem with the sustainability objectives already set out in Food Wise 2025,” he said.

IFA critical of current disease control strategy

IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart has said the establishment of a National Farmed Animal Health Strategy for Ireland is crucial for farmers to address the shortcomings of the current approach.

Steward said the current approach has left farmers exposed to unnecessary costs and bureaucracy in disease control and eradication.

He said while significant progress is been made in eradicating BVD from the National herd, huge issues have been identified as a result of the lack of a co-ordinated approach with the Department of Agriculture in implementing the programme.

“The lessons learned from the mistakes in the BVD programme must be taken on board in a national co-ordinated strategy for all animal health issues,” he said.

He said the approach to date on most animal health issues has taken the easy option of imposing the burden of costs onto farmers while ignoring the broader benefits that accrue.

The current BVD programme is a typical example, he said, as it costs farmers over €7m annually with only minimal support provided by the Department of Agriculture with no other stakeholders contributing financially.