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New TB rules to cause 'mayhem' this autumn

New TB rules are predicted to cause 'mayhem' during the autumn weanling trade when farmers attempt to buy and sell stock.

Despite the confirmation last week that neighbouring herds next to a reactor herd would be individually risk assessed before they too were subjected to restrictions, farmers in the west say that the rules are unworkable.

Roscommon farmer, Joe Gilfillan, who is treasurer of the Charolais society, says that many farmers still don't realise the significance of the rule changes.

"There was a farmer at the sale in Elphin on Saturday who only discovered that he was locked up when he went to pay for the animal he had just purchased," said Mr Gilfillan.


However, the farmer was subsequently able to proceed with his purchase once contact had been made with a Department of Agriculture official, who sanctioned a 'temporary lifting' of the restrictions to facilitate the transaction.

Mr Gilfillan said that they got a huge turnout at Charolais club meetings on the issue and that farmers were very angry with the IFA's role in the issue.

"Many farmers were ready to rescind their IFA membership because they are convinced that the organisation were asleep at the wheel on this," he said.

"I think there is going to be mayhem in the autumn when men are trying to sell and buy weanlings and they find out they're locked up," said the Roscommon breeder, who claims that he has 18 contiguous herds next to his own holding.

The changes that came into effect on January 1 mean that when two or more TB reactors are discovered on a farm, herds adjoining that holding are restricted if they have not had a clear test in the previous four months.

As a result, cattle can only be moved on or off the farm if they are being sent for slaughter, unless the herd clears a test.

"We feel these restrictions are too much of a burden on farmers, particularly for suckler farmers," said ICSA's rural development chairman John Barron.

Last week the minister emphasised that restrictions will be examined on a case-by-case basis, with only herds which are identified as being "genuinely relevant to the breakdown" subjected to restrictions.

"With the average Irish herd owner operating across three separate blocks of land, a TB breakdown has the very real potential to lock up several parishes," said Mr Barron.


IFA animal health chairman John Waters echoed these concerns. "Imposing trade restrictions on all farms is excessive, and adds unnecessary cost and trade constraints to farms that are not a TB risk."

Mr Waters claimed that the progress over the past 10 years in reducing the levels of TB was mainly due to the Wildlife Control programme.

"This programme must continue to be implemented, and in some counties, improved on to sustain the reduction in TB levels," he added.

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