Video: Co. Wicklow farmer describes his constant battle with TB

Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is a serious and costly issue which has affected almost every farm in the country in some way or another.

On the most recent episode of FarmLand, the team met Patrick Nuttall – a beef and sheep farmer from Co. Wicklow – who has become accustomed to being locked up with TB following continuous outbreaks of the disease on his farm over the years.

Farming just outside Roundwood, Co. Wicklow, Patrick is farming a total of 110ha of which 25ha is in commercial forestry – with between 450 to 500 ewes and 40 to 50 suckler cows.

Speaking to AgriLand about his experience with TB, he said: “I lost the herd in 1998. We never had a reactor on the farm until then and we lost everything in the one test.

“So, I kind have gotten used to it at this stage. We had odd reactors until about 2008 and since then we have been pretty much continuously locked up.

“Every so often I get released, but most of the time I am restricted. The longest stretch I have done is two and half years restricted. But, you just live with it and get on with it.”

Answering the question on what kind of effect it has had on him and his farm, he said: “Well, it stops you investing big money in your cows because you never know when they are going to be here, or gone.

“I run a fairly cheap and cheerful system. They are a black Limousin, Friesian-base cow crossing back to an Angus; something simple.”

We asked Patrick why he thinks TB is particularly bad in his area. Explaining why, he said: “We have a lot of deer in this area. We do have badgers but our badgers have always been clear of TB.

“When we lost the herd in 1998 we took our badgers out and they were clear of TB; they have always been clear.

“Every time we take them out, we have them tested and they have never once shown up with TB. We are always getting deer with TB in this area.”

Patrick continued by explaining how he tries to protect his herd against the risk of contracting the disease.

“All our sheds have doors which we pull across at night to try and keep the deer and badgers out. We buy beet which we tip up in a shed with sheated doors.

“We do a lot of shooting of deer here as well. We are on a section 42 at the moment; so we can shoot deer out of season and I would have fair few shooters that come shooting here.”

Finally, we asked Patrick if he thought enough was being done to eradicate the disease and what his thoughts on the badger vaccination program are.

“In 2014, the department did a deer cull in this area and they shot 103 deer. 17% of these showed up with TB.

“They have done nothing about the information; realistically, they are not doing enough. They need to have a full-time shooter here in the area.

“Anywhere there are bad areas of TB, they should put their own man in who has a good shot and get him to reduce the numbers and hopefully improve the chances of farmers going clear.”

In terms of the vaccination program, he said: “By the sounds of it we are going to be the last to get vaccinated. We are not deemed as an important county.

“There are only 1,500 herds in east Wicklow, there are 15,000 in Cork and there are 115,000 in the whole of Ireland; so their view is – ‘sure you’re only 1%, you’re not that important, so why would be spend money on you?'”