Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

IFA U-turn on animal health

The vaccination of badgers is showing
The vaccination of badgers is showing "encouraging" results

Martin Ryan

The IFA National Animal Health Committee, which was controversially disbanded more than a decade and a half ago, is to be fully re-instated within the organisation structure with immediate effect.

Northeast Regional Chairman, Bert Stewart, has confirmed that notification is being issued to the branch and county structure countrywide within the next week, inviting nominations for positions on the reinstated committee.

While each branch is entitled to nominate a candidate, it is up to each county executive to decide on their representative, with one seat on the committee for each of the 29 executives to form the new committee, which is being scheduled to be operational from the beginning of January 2017.

Mr Stewart, who is currently IFA Animal Welfare Project Leader, will automatically become chairman of the Animal Health Committee next January.

He has confirmed that he will serve the first year in the position, with an open election among the membership in January 2018 to appoint his successor.

There was strong opposition voiced within the rank and file membership at the "cost saving" decision of the IFA to dissolve the committee in the early years of the last decade because it was felt the "concerns of farmers over disease controls" and administration of the disease control and eradication schemes would not be monitored to protect the interests of livestock farmers.

However, during the same period, TB infection levels declined significantly to 1.82pc in 2015, down from 3.6pc in 2001.

The number of reactor animals removed from herds last year declined to 15,317 across a total of 115,000 herds tested. Mr Stewart said vaccination of badgers is showing "encouraging" results, which could replace the necessity for culling to control disease spread.

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"Where vaccination only of badgers has been carried out, TB infection has not increased any more than in the areas outside the target vaccination area, which indicates that it is being effective and the cost to the Department of the vaccination and micro chipping is cost neutral," he said.

However, TB in deer in Wicklow remains an issue, with a recent trial showing that 16pc of 103 deer tested were infected with the disease.

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