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Thursday 15 November 2018

TB outbreak spiralling out of control warns IFA

Farmers in Monaghan 'living in fear' as rate of infection in county now double the national average

Farmers have to badger proof farm buildings
Farmers have to badger proof farm buildings

Martin Ryan

A major TB outbreak in Monaghan is threatening to spiral out of control, farmer leaders in the county have warned.

The Department of Agriculture has written to herd owners in the county this week and confirmed that the rate of TB herd infection and number of reactor animals locally is multiple times the national average.

Farmers fear a raft of further herd depopulations will be ordered as part of the Department of Agriculture drive to bring the outbreak under control.

In addition, hundreds of more herds will have animal movement restrictions imposed in order to limit the spread of the disease.

Frank Brady of Monaghan IFA said farmers in the county were "living in fear" as a result of the widespread restrictions and herd depopulations.

"An improved hardship fund has to be provided for any farmer losing his livelihood," Mr Brady said. "I fear there is going to be a lot more depopulations because the spread is out of control - it is a very lonely place for herd owners to be.

"The Department officials are doing their best but they are going to have to tackle the source and I believe that badgers and deer are going to have to be looked at to see what can be done," he added.

"For a county that has gone from being one of the lowest (for TB infection) to the worst in two years, there has to be a reason and we have to get serious about the source of the infection - farmers' livelihoods are at stake and the cause has to be tackled," Mr Brady said.

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In the communication with herd owners - a copy of which has been seen by the Farming Independent - the Department of Agriculture confirmed that 6.13pc of all herds in Co Monaghan tested for TB to the end of July 2018 have experienced a new breakdown.

The breakdown rate is more than double the national average, while the reactors per 1,000 tests stands at 5.12 which is almost three times the national average.

"The rise in the TB incidence in Monaghan is multi-factorial and will require a range of measures to address the issue," the Department letter stated.

"The Department has devised a tailored programme for Monaghan following consultation with staff in the local office and stakeholders in the area. This represents a coordinated, rigorous plan to get on top of the TB problems in Monaghan," the Department maintained.

Targets

"This targeted programme will focus on such areas as epidemiology, contiguous programmes, gamma interferon testing, cleansing and disinfection, testing compliance and frequency, and isolation of reactors," the letter explained.

 Farmers are advised to fence-off badger sets, only use raised troughs for livestock feeding and badger-proof farm buildings by covering the lower part of access gates to sheds.

"Action has to be taken to get to the root of the spread of infection and all identified reactors must be removed as quickly as possible to restrict further spread," said ICMSA beef chair Des Morrison.

The ICSA's Hugh Farrell described the TB situation in Monaghan as a real concern, and he claimed that matters in the county could "get worse before they get better".

"We will be pressing for an improved hardship payment, especially for suckler farmers and store producers who have no monthly milk cheque and who cannot offload finished cattle (under herd restriction). Suckler farmers live in fear of a TB outbreak, particularly in a year like this when feed is so scarce," Mr Farrell said.

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