Suggestions that on-farm valuations of TB reactor cattle could be ended in place of remote market price-based valuations have been slammed by one farm organisation.

Members of the TB Stakeholders Forum were recently shown key points from a report into on-farm market valuation (OFMV) of TB reactor cattle.

Professional services firm Grant Thornton was commissioned to carry out the report in January 2020.

According to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), the conclusion in the report suggest phasing out OFMV, and replacing it with an automated system whereby the farmer – or perhaps an advisor – would input the animal’s details on an online platform, and a figure of compensation would be determined through market value.

Responding to the potential development, ICSA animal health and welfare chairperson Hugh Farrell commented: “Every farmer has the right to a proper valuation of stock in the event of a TB breakdown and that right must be protected.

“Any moves to remove fair and proper valuations from the TB Eradication Programme will be vigorously opposed by ICSA. The suggestion that all animals could be accurately valued on a desktop basis is ludicrous,” Farrell argued.

“The on-farm valuation process is a central part of the TB programme and must be available to any farmer who wants it.

“Farmers work too hard building up their herds for them ever to accept valuations without their stock being seen and assessed properly,” the ICSA representative noted.

He added: “Farmers must be afforded the freedom to fully value the animals, particularly when it comes to valuable suckler cows and breeding stock.”

Farrell went on to express concern that some farmers, particularly older ones who may not be familiar with online systems and those living in areas with poor or no broadband internet, would be put at a disadvantage by such a change.

He also highlighted another point he said was made in the Grant Thornton report – that live valuations were contributing to a delay in removing reactors from farms.

Farrell disputed this, arguing instead: “Delays are caused by the failure of the Department of Agriculture and the processors to establish contracts for the disposal of these animals in a timely manner.

“As it stands arrangements are made on an ad hoc week-by-week basis, and it is this – rather than the live valuation process – that is causing the most significant delays,” he asserted.