Farm Ireland

Thursday 23 November 2017

'Doubtfuls' restricted by TB rules Martin Ryan

Thousands of TB-free farms will be living in dread of immediate restrictions this autumn as details on the implementation of controversial new TB rules are released this week.

Department of Agriculture officials have held firm on the requirement for herds to be restricted if they are 'contiguous' to a reactor herd. In addition, a retest will be required every four months for contiguous herds. Farm organisations had pleaded with the Minister to extend this retest requirement to six months.

But in an effort to appease farmers, the Department has committed to notifying by phone before a restriction on movement is imposed, with a postal notice to follow. A veterinary epidemiological inspection of any contiguous herd will then be carried out within five days of a TB breakdown in an area.

"In all cases where a herd is being restricted, other than where reactors are found at a test or after a TB lesion detection at slaughter, herdowners are to be notified by telephone on the day the restriction is to be applied," said a Department spokesman.

Another concession is that wildlife implicated as a source of an outbreak will no longer be excluded from the investigation, testing and removal process. In such cases, a sett survey will be undertaken on the farm and the immediate vicinity and badgers trapped and removed, despite earlier insistence that the Department of Environment would never agree with this. The changes confirm that farmers will be liable to pay for additional herd testing under the new rules. Animals that return an 'inconclusive' in a TB test will also be restricted for life, even if the animal later tests 'clear'.

The clarifications come in advance of the key autumn trade for suckler herds. It has been suggested that holdings with many parcels of land could end up restricting up to 40 separate herds, should they fail a TB test, with disastrous implications for farmers.

The key points that emerged this week were:

nHerds contiguous to all farmed parcels of land, whether owned or rented away from the main holding where a TB breakdown is identified, will be restricted if there is movement of animals related to the infected herd between the parcels involved.

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nHerds will be considered contiguous if there is nose-to-nose cattle contact, common badger or other wildlife activity, or where there are common drinking points, shared machinery or other sources of contact.

nWhere wildlife or shared mechanical resources are implicated in the breakdown the separation of the fragments by a roadway or similar does not exclude a contiguous herd.

nAll herds 'contiguous' to a herd where two TB reactors have been identified are restricted pending a 'clear' test unless the herd had a 'clear' test within the previous four months.

nHerd owners will be responsible for the cost of the test unless the herd was tested within the previous 10 months.

nAll 'inconclusive' animals are restricted for life and may only be moved directly for slaughter. The animal may also be authorised by the DVO to move direct (farm-to-farm) to a feedlot herd from where it shall, within a short period of time, proceed to slaughter.

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