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Thursday 13 December 2018

TB proposals will 'stigmatise' farmers and devalue stock

Farmers vent anger at 2030 TB eradication plan information meetings

Outside of Co Wicklow, there was no evidence of deer being a source of spread of infection. Picture: Damien Eagers.
Outside of Co Wicklow, there was no evidence of deer being a source of spread of infection. Picture: Damien Eagers.

Martin Ryan

Proposals that would publicly identify animals from herds categorised as high risk for TB infection would stigmatise farmers and devalue stock, Department of Agriculture officials have been warned.

Farmers have vented their anger to senior Department officials at information meetings on the latest proposals to accelerate TB eradication by 2030.

"Stigmatising farmers in marts, by publicising their name on the board (as a high risk herd for TB) is a very dangerous road to be going down and farmers will not accept it," one farmer warned officials at the information meeting in Nenagh, Co Tipperary. A 200-cow dairy farmer who is facing into his second calving season with a locked-down herd pleaded with the officials for a solution to what he described as a nightmare situation of coping with the additional stock.

Several farmers spoke emotionally about the "trauma" of herd breakdown for families, the financial hardships experienced, alleged long delays in receiving payments under the scheme.

The Department officials confirmed that 2,400 farms are currently affected and the decline in infection rate has ceased with latest returns showing a 15pc increase to 13,933 reactors for 2018.Officials rejected claims that reactors were not being paid for at market value.

They said that of the 16,000 animals per annum taken out under the scheme, the vast majority are accepted with 1pc going to arbitration which is available to all farmers.

Compensation

They stated that compensation payment per reactor had increased in 2018 by 18pc to an average of €701.55 and the overall compensation is up 35pc to €9.774m for the year, with hardship fund payments up 60pc to €2.92m.

IFA Animal Health chair Pat Farrell said that farmers are not happy with the pace of eradication which has been "way too slow" and added payments to farmers are small relative to the overall cost to the sector in levies and testing fees.

Department official Philip Breslin gave a comprehensive informative presentation in Nenagh on the complexities of the tests used for detection.

An estimated 6,000 badgers are now being culled each year and 1,000 vaccinated, with plans to increase vaccination, and while it is accepted that badgers can be carriers, "there is no evidence that there's a link to foxes and TB."

Mr Breslin said that outside of Co Wicklow, there was no evidence of deer being a source of spread of infection.

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