‘Why should a farmer undergo the pressure of 2 TB tests if their cattle are not to be trusted?’ – ICSA

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Dara Calleary, “must insist that no new measures or decisions on the TB programme should be announced in the absence of an agreement on outstanding issues from the TB forum”.

This is according to Hugh Farrell, the animal health and welfare chair of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA).

Farrell went on to say that: “The latest move by the department is the introduction of a new coding system that would categorise herds based on their TB history, and is simply the continuation of a strategy to change the TB regime in line with their own wishes.

This is going on while ignoring all of the requests put forward by farmer representatives.

“The ICSA has always been adamant that farmers who have recovered from a past TB breakdown should not be further penalised by finding themselves at a disadvantage when selling stock.

“The concern is that farmers who had even a single reactor in previous years but who now were clear of TB could potentially find themselves unable to sell stock or else be forced to take a hugely discounted price.”

‘Current controls do not work’

Farrell continued: “The message that this gives is that the current controls do not work. Why should a farmer undergo the pressure of two clear herd tests if the message is now that this farmer’s cattle are not to be trusted?

Either the two clear tests are a worthwhile measure of eliminating TB from a herd, or it is not. And if it is not, why are we doing two tests?

Farrell went on to say that farmers already lack confidence in the testing programme as “none of the tests have proven 100% accurate”, and many farmers have been left frustrated with delays in having sample lesions cultured.

“Rather than imposing more hardship on farmers, the ICSA wants to see a renewed focus on badger testing and culling as well as significant action on controlling the spread of TB by diseased wild deer.

“However, there are still many outstanding questions on the critical issue of compensation levels.

Unless these issues are dealt with, it is unacceptable to drive on implementing the bits of the TB Forum that the department likes while ignoring the real issues brought to the table by farmer representatives.

“I am calling on Minister Calleary to face up in a fair and balanced way to all of the issues around the TB programme. The only way to deliver real results is with a programme that has the buy-in of all farmers,” Farrell concluded.