'We have to get back on the horse and stock up again' - Kerry farmer picking up the pieces after the worst outbreak of bovine TB in decades.

Martin O'Sullivan
Martin O'Sullivan
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

South Kerry farmers are picking up the pieces after the worst outbreak of bovine TB in decades.

Michael O'Sullivan from Foilmore is sceptical about the effectiveness of vaccination.

Neither is he convinced the badger is to blame.

“There are locals here who reckon it’s the deer. We’ve had badgers on our farm for generations and never had a problem like this.

“They’re now mapping the setts and trapping the badgers and there’s some talk about vaccina­tion but how can you vaccinate all the badgers?

“Is it an ongoing thing that has to be done annually and are the offspring of a vaccinated badger covered or do they have to come back and do it again?

“I don’t think it’s a realistic aim and it will be piecemeal because some of them are inaccessi­ble on cliffs and hills so I don’t think it could be done,” said Michael.

However, he does notice an increase in num­bers and hopes that a cull might ensure a lower but healthier population of badger.

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His suckler herd of pedigree cattle has been in lockdown since he had 39 reactors on December 15.

The rest of his herd was subsequently tested and he had 31 more.

“They’re all gone now so I’m getting ready for the next test, which will be 60 days after the cat­tle leave, so hopefully, with the skin test and the blood test they’ll be clear and we can get back on track,” he said.

Mr O’Sullivan was hit hard by the test results. He had been building up his herd for years and 98pc of his animals, mostly Charolais and Limousin, were in the top 5pc in the Economic Breeding Index (EBI).

The compensation he received for his animals didn’t recognise their five-star rating.

“The compensation is a real joke,” he says. “The bull that went down on me cost me 3,800 guineas, he was four years, and I got €2,500.”

Mountain springs

Mr O’Sullivan has complied with Department advice on measures he can take on his farm. He points out that some of his land is hilly terrain and cattle drink directly from mountain springs.

Water troughs, at least 32 inches off the ground, have been placed on low-ly­ing land. He has steam washed and disinfected all his farm buildings and all his stock is still inside.

For now he’s looking forward to some light at the end of what has been a dark tunnel.

“We will get back on the horse and stock up again, hopefully.

“We have to be positive and try again but we wouldn’t want to be hit a second time. This never happened to me before but hope­fully the Department will get to the root of it,” he said.

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