Farmers divided over plans to publicly identify ‘high risk’ TB herds

Martin Ryan

A proposal to identify the herd health status of livestock being offered for public sale has divided farmers.

The Department proposal to identify livestock categorised as ‘high risk’ for TB infection was slammed as ‘stigmatising’ herds and devaluing of the stock at a series of Department and IFA regional information meetings in November.

Tom Kennedy (Pallasgreen) told last week’s meeting of Limerick IFA that it is not acceptable that livestock from a particular area can be “devalued” on the market because there is a bad breakdown in one herd.

“Disclosing the health status of a herd should not be accepted by the IFA,” he said.

A senior IFA officer disagreed and argued that if a herd has been wiped out with TB and the farmer is restocking, he is entitled to know that he is not buying back from a high-risk area.

ICMSA deputy president Lorcan McCabe said his group has no problem with a number of the Department proposals.

“But we are particularly concerned by the balance that needs to be struck between fair disclosure of herd status and the reality that you could see individuals ‘double-penalised’ in that they had to get past an incidence of infection and then were hampered in trading of their animals, despite testing clear,” he said.

“We think the Department’s proposals put a disproportionate weight on animal movements when the data tells us that 7.4pc of TB outbreaks are due to animal movements and they are, typically, only very short episodes.

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“This question of disclosing the health history of a herd needs more attention and thought than the Department seemed inclined to give it.

“The contrast between their determination in this area and their somewhat weaker commitment to looking at the wildlife aspect — specifically badgers and deer — is notable.”

Fear

Livestock farmers in Co Monaghan are reported to be living in a state of fear of their livelihoods being wiped out by an “out of control” spread of TB infection, with herd infection and reactor animals confirmed to be three times the national average.

Frank Brady, Monaghan IFA chairman said: “For a county that has gone from being one of 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.”

Online Editors