Farmers oppose tighter curbs on cattle under TB eradication laws
A proposal by the Department of Agriculture and Food to reintroduce a 60-day pre-movement TB test for cattle will be bitterly opposed by the main farm organisation, the IFA.
The proposal is part of an ongoing review of the privatised bovine TB scheme introduced by the former Minister for Agriculture, Mr Ivan Yates, three years ago.
Since then the level of cattle reacting to the TB test has risen to nearly 45,000, the highest since the eradication scheme was introduced in the early 1960s.
The rising levels of reactors is causing concern among farmers because the EU is set to introduce strict new controls in the scheme. Under these rules, if one animal on a farm is tested and is inconclusive, no other animal can be sold from that farm until another test is carried out or the animal is slaughtered and a post-mortem examination has been carried out.
Under the current scheme, the doubtful animal is placed away from other animals and its movement restricted, but a farmer can trade in other animals which have passed the test.
The chairman of the Irish Farmers Association's animal health committee, Mr Liam Egan, said that if the EU rules were applied, up to 10,000 farmers would not be allowed to earn a living.
He said the proposal to reintroduce the pre-movement test would have a minimal effect on the disease but would cause major hardships to farmers.
He said farmers were "sick to the teeth" of having to pay more for testing their cattle while no serious attempt was being made to deal with the problem of wildlife although the evidence was that wildlife was a major contributor to spreading the disease.
The State's 140,000 herds, nearly 7.8 million cattle, must undergo an annual tuberculosis test, and in the two years since privatisation the number of reactors per 1,000 tests has risen from approximately three animals to nearly four.
The worst affected areas have been Monaghan, Leitrim, Cavan, and west Wicklow. While the Department believes badgers are contributing to its spread, it is hoping to vaccinate rather than to destroy them.
In four study areas where badgers were removed, the Department has concluded that there was a significant fall in bovine TB.