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Post-mortem plan predicts savings of at least €200m

Farmers could save at least €200m annually under a new Veterinary Ireland proposal for meat plant inspections being examined by the Department of Agriculture.

The draft plans would see meat plant vets issue farmers with detailed post-mortem information on individual cattle slaughtered at plants on their factory dockets, according to Veterinary Ireland.

Veterinary Ireland has proposed that Temporary Veterinary Inspectors could analyse carcasses for liver fluke infestation, pneumonia, pregnancy, pleurisy, pericarditis, peritonitis, cystic ovaries and pyometra, providing the information to both farmers and the ICBF.

Massive savings are possible if the information is used by farmers to address herd health and management issues, according to Veterinary Ireland chief executive Finbar Murphy.

Between 25pc and 60pc of all cattle slaughtered in Ireland have lung lesions from pneumonia. Weight loss associated with the disease during the finishing period cost farmers between €13m and €33m every year. However, weight loss accounts for only a fraction of pneumonia costs and the condition is believed to cost farmers €55-132m annually.

Mr Murphy said that if the country's 1.2 million beef cattle were to be actively vaccinated against pneumonia at a cost of €16/hd, farmers could save between €36m to €113m. Potential savings of almost €18m could also be made if vets were able to report the high incidence of pregnancy in cull cows and beef heifers to herd owners.

Significant numbers of pregnant cattle are slaughtered needlessly for want of accurate pregnancy diagnosis.

Surveys have shown that upwards of 25pc of cull cows slaughtered were in-calf, while 15pc of beef heifers were found to be in calf. If half of these potential dairy calves were saved, it would result in annual savings of €15m to the industry, while if 10pc of the beef calves were saved, it would equal a saving of €2.8m.

Liver fluke infestation has become an endemic problem on Irish farms and it is estimated to cost the agriculture sector €90m annually. If farmers were notified of liver fluke problems in their slaughtered animals, they could take preventative action.

Higher salvage rates of liver for human consumption and improved hide condition could potentially see annual savings of almost €5m.

ICSA beef chairman Ed Phelan welcomed the move towards efficient multi-tasking by the vets, adding that such information could act as an early warning system on herd health.

"It will be particularly useful now that farmers no longer follow their animals down the slaughter line," he said.

IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns called on Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to ensure that there would be no increase in meat inspection levies for farmers as a result of the vets' move.

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