Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Tougher TB rules could be in pipeline

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

EU pressure could force automatic restrictions despite furore

TB rULES are set to be tightened further despite the furore over the increased restrictions introduced on January 1 this year.

Department of Agriculture officials claim the latest restrictions are necessary to prevent the European Union imposing a blanket pre-movement test on all animals.

However, Department sources have revealed the next raft of restrictions may see farmers with herds found to be overdue for testing facing an immediate restriction on buying or selling stock from or to other farmers.

While the eradication of TB is trumpeted as the main driver behind the tighter restrictions, budgetary pressures appear to be an increasingly important consideration.

Up to €38m is spent on controlling TB in Ireland every year, €16m of which comes from the EU.

However, mart managers are continuing to report cases of farmers being caught unawares by the new regulations and paying dearly as a result.

"I've had farmers who only discovered that they were locked up after they had sold their animals," said Sixmilebridge Mart manager, Sean Ryan.

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"Even though the individual animals were still in test, the farmers' herds had been restricted because they were due to be tested.

"It cost one man €200 in transport and fees," he said.

Many managers feel there hasn't been enough done to inform farmers about what is involved in the changes.

"This is going to be a big issue up here but, to be honest, most farmers don't know enough about it to be concerned yet," said Raphoe Mart manager, Anne Harkin.

"We should be sitting down to discuss this with other marts, ICOS and the farm bodies.

"I think it could affect the trade very badly because a letter in the post informing a farmer that they are locked up could be a day late if they are already on their way to the sale."

Gerry Connellan of Elphin Mart said that many of his local farmers were considering getting their annual herd test moved to July, in order to give themselves four months' cover for the autumn weanling sales.

"But I'm still very worried about the impact of it all on trade in the mart, especially on the sellers," Mr Connellan added.

However, Ballina Mart manager, James Cleary, said the rule changes were a good thing in the long run.

"It's stopping unscrupulous lads off-loading cattle as quick as possible if they know there's been a dodgy outbreak next to them," he commented.

The Farming Independent has also talked to individual dealers regarding TB restrictions, some of whom claim to have more than 60 contiguous herds which would be vulnerable to being 'locked up'.


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