Beef farmers must be aware of disease risks of imported cattle

BEEF farmers buying imported EU stock should be aware of heightened risk of disease and the greater challenge in selling these animals to Irish factories, warns the ICMSA.

Chairman of the ICMSA’s beef and cattle committee, Kevin Connolly, said Irish factories are still slow to buy non-Irish stock, mindful of Johnes disease and other ailments brought into Ireland with imports 10 years ago.

“When Irish dairy farmers brought in Friesian stock 10 years ago, the maiden heifers brought in a lot of diseases we didn’t have here,” said Mr Connolly.

“We are still struggling with a lot of those. I saw a lot of people around me buying up that stock, but I didn’t like the look of them. Nobody would listen then and I would hope people would give a bit more thought before importing now.

“The imported animals could well be perfect. This is a perfectly legal trade but it’s very important that farmers purchasing such stock should take a number of precautions to ensure the safety of their own existing herds.”

The ICMSA beef spokesman also noted that Ireland’s own disease control strategy needs greater attention. He said that he is disappointed that the new tags formally launched at the National Ploughing Championships have yet to be made available to farmers.

This slow turnaround is putting the credibility of Irish stock at risk, notably as regards the testing of persistently infected (PI) animals. He notes that the BVD eradication programme has cost the state €100m to date, a cost which would have been significantly with lesser levels of imported stock.

“We should not repeat the mistakes of the 1990s and it is important for individual farmers that they satisfy themselves of the imported animals’ health status,” said Mr Connolly.

“Given the lack of a history of importing stock to Ireland and the fact that not all meat plants will kill imported stock, it would be very wise of farmers thinking of buying imported animals to have a very clear idea of potential outlets for these cattle when they are finished and who will pay a price equivalent to Irish cattle,” he added.

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