'Frustration growing' over TB programme 

'Frustration growing' over TB programme 

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said in recent days that it has been a "very challenging year" in relation to TB, with levels remaining high. 

Farmer "anger and frustration" is growing with the Department of Agriculture at the "lack of progress in addressing critical issues" related to the TB programme, according to the Irish Farmers' Association.

IFA national animal health chairman TJ Maher said that despite increased funding provided over the past two years for the Wildlife Control Programme, "little or no progress has been made in providing the additional staff promised to implement the programme on the ground".

He claimed that farmers have "never been shy about taking hard decisions", but "unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the department". 

"Key decisions have been taken over the past four years in the TB forum and commitments given by the minister but we have yet to see these on the ground, in particular staffing and implementation of the wildlife programme," Mr Maher said.

Mr Maher added that at a meeting of the TB forum in October, the scientific working group "presented a view on the potential of a regional approach to eradication of TB". 

"This was rejected by the forum as it had been by IFA in our bilateral meeting with DAFM a week earlier," Mr Maher said.

'Challenging year'

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said in recent days that it has been a "very challenging year" in relation to TB, with levels remaining high. 

"We really have to look at how we can reverse the trend we've been seeing," he told the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association AGM.

It's a frustrating situation over the last year and it's not sustainable, particularly for farmers. 

"It's pure torture for everyone involved.

"Some hard decisions may be required." 

Responding to concerns around deer numbers and the spread of TB, Mr McConalogue added that there are "far too many" deer in Ireland, and that "we do have to do a cull".

Auction facility

Last month, the minister announced a new online auction facility for test-negative animals from TB-restricted herds.

Previously, TB-restricted herds could only sell test-negative animals directly to slaughter or, in a small number of cases, to an individual TB-restricted controlled finishing unit for onward movement to slaughter. 

Mr McConalogue said this was in an effort to "alleviate some of the burden associated with having to keep more stock than required on a TB-restricted holding". 

He said that TB levels "remain stubbornly high", continuing to "cause hardship".

"The cost of the TB programme to the state is now almost double what it was in 2019. The most effective way to assist farmers, and where the cost of the programme can be reduced for all stakeholders, is to reduce disease levels," Mr McConalogue said.

"That is why we all must refocus our energies on examining and advancing options, which may involve difficult decisions to reduce the overall disease levels and therefore the cost of the programme for everyone."

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Karen Walsh

Karen Walsh

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