Farmers have been advised to ask other farmers for their individual TB risk rating when moving cattle on to their farm.
The Department of Agriculture’s decision in 2020 to develop individualised reports that provide a TB herd risk category for farmers proved controversial, with the IFA describing the decision as a ‘fiasco’, claiming it was an attempt to “blacklist” farmers for events outside their control.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue defended the reports and said there are no requirements whatsoever resulting from the TB letters.
However, at a Teagasc farm walk in Galway last week, Department of Agriculture Veterinary Inspector Peter O’Neill encouraged farmers to seek details of other farmers’ TB status when moving their animals into their herds.
“Cattle movement is a major risk for the introduction of TB to a farm. We are saying to use the Herd Risk Rating,” said Mr O’Neill.
“You are all aware of it and you’ve all had your letters telling you what rating your herd is. The risk rating is primarily about protecting your herd and when you are moving animals in, you want to know what the risk rating for TB was of the herd you’re moving them from,” he said.
He explained the difference between the TB rankings and told farmers to avoid the riskiest animals if possible.
He confirmed that the department would not give out information on other farmers’ TB risk status, but said, “I wouldn’t buy a car without knowing its history” and added, “if that information was not forthcoming [from the other farmer], perhaps you need to think about why that is”.
Mr O’Neill informed farmers at the event that the number of TB breakdowns had increased significantly since 2015 and said figures over the last number of years have shown that in terms of the number of reactors, the dairy herd is disproportionally represented.
He encouraged farmers to look at their own production process and understand where the risks for TB are and how to control those risks.
“Historically, there may have been a feeling that if your herd got TB and it was an act of God, and there wasn’t much you could do about it. That is far from being the case. There are lots of things you can do to perhaps not eliminate the risk, but certainly reduce the risk of getting TB,” he said.