IFA Animal Health chairman Bert Stewart said the offices are a highly regarded, vital support for farmers countrywide and that reducing their role and support structure was unacceptable.
He said farmers depend on the quality and independence of the strategically- located regional veterinary laboratory structure.
He said: “This structure facilitates the convenient and timely submission of samples by farmers and vets when urgent, accurate, independent diagnosis of on-farm problems is required.”
Mr Stewart said with increasing herd sizes, farmers will face different challenges and animal health issues that will require the support of their local regional veterinary laboratory.
At a time when farmers are making huge investments in raising the health status of the national herd, the department should be increasing the resources and the service provided. Mr Stewart said veterinary laboratories are best equipped to provide these services.
“It is critical that the existing structures are maintained and built on to ensure they are fit for purpose and continue to deliver real value to farmers,” he said.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, in response to Dáil questions, has repeatedly stressed that the number of administrative staff required in regional offices has reduced significantly. This arose from the reduction in the incidence of disease, the computerisation of much of the work, and the introduction of efficiencies in the operation of the Bovine TB eradication scheme.
The centralisation of administrative functions in the local offices to two centres fits in both with his department’s objectives in driving efficiency and savings, and with the broad public service reform agenda.
Mr Coveney said this will enable his department to cut the number of staff required to support veterinary office operations and thus, the cost of providing its services.
The centralisation of administrative functions will not negatively impact upon local access and services for local customers, he said.