'Financially, the recurring TB has destroyed us...I'm not sure we can cope with another case'
How one farmer's herd has been hit with TB 13 times in 20 years
Thirteen years out of twenty has resulted in Paddy Healy’s dairy herd going down with TB. He does't know what he'll do if the herd tests positive again this year.
Paddy bought the 130 acre farm in Loggan, in county Wexford, back in 1997 and leased a further 40 acres. Previously he farmed in Roundwood, in Wicklow, but he never had any TB at his home farm.
He shakes his head is bewilderment. "There is no reason why this should be so," he says. "We don’t know why we keep on testing positive."
He has 90 cows in year round milking although he is thinking of giving up winter milking as it just doesn’t pay. "We shall have to make decision soon," he says. "Unless prices improve it is just not worth our time."
Paddy farms with his wife Margaret and son Sean, while his other two children have since left the farm. He would like to retire but the year round milking is very intensive for one farmer on his own.
One year he lost a bull to TB as well which really floored him. Although the Department values and compensates him for the cattle that test positive it does not cover the loss of earnings though reduced milk output.
The highest number of cattle ever to test positive was 14 which was a significant cull to the herd. "What with milk prices being low and then the milk output reduced by almost a quarter, it had a devastating impact on our finances," says Paddy. "It continues to do so.’
Paddy has had to borrow to keep the farm going. He has reached the point where he cannot borrow any more and more over the repayments are almost impossible to repay out of current earnings.