Farm Ireland

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Department refutes claims deer are to blame for massive Kerry TB outbreak

Anne Lucey

The Department of Agriculture has said there is “no link” between the spread of wild deer into south Kerry and the biggest outbreak of bovine TB in living memory in the area.

Dozens of farms are in lockdown and around 360 cattle have been removed for slaughter in an area between Kells and Caherdaniel in Iveragh, and investigations and are contintuing.

Extra supports for farm families are being sought for the area which until now has never had more than the odd reacto and never been a TB blackspot.

The finger of suspicion is being pointed at deer, as well as badgers.

In one of several emergency motions, Cllrs Michael Cahill and John Francis Flynn asked for “immediate clarification from  the Minister for Agriculture and Food Michael Creed TD and his Department Officials/Veterinary Inspectors”.

The Department has now said “the evidence to date" supports the view that badgers have contributed to the spread of the TB.

“There is no evidence of any deer involvement in this outbreak at this time,” it underlined.

Badger capturing is now taking place to reduce the badger density in this area which had not previously been subject to capture and has not experienced this type of outbreak in recent times.

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A further contributory factor in the area is the number of herd fragments which aids the spread of the disease, it also said.

“The Department acknowledges the concerns and fully understands the stress associated with disease events on farm. It continues to work with farmers and veterinary practitioners in bringing this outbreak under control. Department Veterinary Inspectors are currently investigating and responding to the outbreak.”

Farmers locally as well as public representatives continue  to raise questions about deer which have spread with forestry into Iveragh.

The Chairman of Kerry IFA Pat O’Driscoll of Valentia Island said  the problem will not be solved just by testing and removing cattle from the peninsula, all contributing sources must be indentified.

He said said the IFA met with Parks and Wildlife and received assurances that farmers will be provided with the relevant licences to address the problems associated with deer in the area.

Kerry IFA Animal Health Chairman Kenneth O’Connell said IFA is pursuing through the National Deer Management Forum the establishment of a national management programme throughout the country “and in particular where deer are associated with TB outbreaks.”

Meanwhile the Irish Wild Deer Association’s Damian Hannigan who is on the National deer Management Forum said while deer, like any other animal could contract TB, there were different strains.

“There is no evidence to show there is a link between the spread of TB to cattle and deer,” Mr Hannigan said.

Tests in 2015 in Wicklow which did identify TB in deer were the result of a different methodology than is used even in cattle testing.

“TB for farm families is devastating. But to suggest deer are in any shape or form responsible is to muddy the waters,” he said.

Deer were only in small pockets around Cahersiveen and South Kerry had experienced  a lot of clear felling of forestry and this disturbed badger sets, he added.

Meanwhile the Department of Agriculture said the actions currently being taken include blood sampling and testing and where reactors are identified “contiguous holdings are identified and tested as required”.

“Where badgers are identified as a possible source, a survey is carried out and badgers captured and removed,” it said.

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