'You'd need a submachine gun to keep them out'
Published 15/07/2015 | 02:30
Wicklow farmer John Cullen has his hopes pinned on this week's TB test.
The nightmare began to unfold for the Rathdrum-based dairyman in June of last year when the annual test delivered a shock result. Last June we had our first 100 reactors on our first test. We'd tested six months before that and had been spotlessly clear," said John, whose farm is still locked up as they await a second clear TB test.
However, John, who farms in partnership with his uncle Johnny in the heavily wooded region of the county, told how the blow to their dairy herd continued unabated at a peak production time when they should have been benefiting from last year's high milk prices. A further 85 cows were removed over the next two tests.
"It is hard not to let it get you down. I had gone from milking 220 cows to 50 cows on that occasion," he said.
"You get compensated for the cows but not the loss of milk."
It was an income blow of around €300,000 alone for the milk income, excluding the usual costs of running the operation, he explained.
"Bank repayments had to stop, I'd to work with creditors," he said, adding his contractors, neighbours and his supplier Glanbia had all been understanding.
"We'd been planning to expand after the quota but it has put us back two years in terms of our bank accounts, which were emptied.
"I've to buy in replacement heifers but it'll be a two-year wait. It is a total wipeout."
He says the deer population appears to have exploded in recent years.
"It is highly visible. I could decide to cull them and get a gunman in to shoot them but you'd need a submachine gun at both ends of the farm to keep them out," he said.
"We need a management plan in the area to get it sorted."