Herd-owners demand share of bovine TB success

Bert Stewart

News Q&A: Bert Stewart, IFA
IFA says TB costs have increased for some farmers.

Livestock farmers have demanded a reduction of an “enormous and unacceptable cost burden which the Department of Agriculture continues to impose through the TB eradication programme.

IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart has said farmers haven’t seen cost reductions in the TB programme — despite reducing levels of the disease, and the Budget allocation for TB eradication being reduced from over €60m annually to €35m last year (which includes €12-14m of EU funding, and €5m in farmers’ disease levy contribution).

Meanwhile, there are further savings from the discontinuation of brucellosis testing this year.

Mr Stewart said, “Significant progress continues in reducing the levels of TB nationally, resulting in substantial savings for the Department of Agriculture in the TB eradication scheme.

However, for the farmers who experience TB restrictions and breakdowns on their farms, the costs and losses associated with the control measures have not reduced and have, in some instances, increased.

This is an unacceptable situation which must be addressed by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney as a matter of urgency in the upcoming Budget through increased funding for the programme”.

How can the bovine TB cost burden for farmers be reduced?

By increasing the funding and payment levels in the compensation schemes, and by removing unnecessary controls from the programme, to reduce the financial losses imposed on farmers and minimise their costs.

You have calculated actual losses to the farmer for each category of animal lost as a TB reactor. What are the figures and how were they calculated?

Currently, income supplement is payable only where over 10% of animals are removed from a herd, and only on a maximum of 100 animals.

It is indisputable that income loss is experienced for each animal removed from a holding; therefore IFA is seeking payment on all animals removed as TB reactors, until it is possible for the herdowner to replace them from the marketplace.

Analysis of the Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS) shows the actual losses for each category of animal lost as a TB reactor on a monthly basis (see accompanying table).

Current income supplement and depopulation grant rates are in no way comparable to the actual income foregone. IFA is seeking payment of both income supplement and depopulation grants at the actual level of income foregone, based on the NFS information.

You want live valuation which returns to farmers the market value of animals removed as TB reactors? How is the current valuation inadequate?

The live valuation scheme is limited by maximum amounts payable (ceilings), and live valuers operate under rigid Department of Agriculture guidelines that can impact on the value attributed to animals. Changes sought by IFA include the removal of the ceiling in the live valuation scheme, and the restoration of the independence of the live valuers.

You say the hardship grant doesn’t compensate adequately for extra animals held on the farm after a TB restriction. How much extra should farmers get?

The hardship grant must be available to all herdowners who are forced to maintain extra animals because of a TB restriction, payable at monthly rates, comparable to the actual maintenance costs of the animals. These costs vary depending on category of animals and farm structure and must be based on the Teagasc costings.

For dairy farmers with dairy bull calves, the Department must provide a facility to alleviate the problems caused when the sale of these animals is prohibited from the holding.

How much compensation should farmers get for prohibition on purchasing in to restricted holding?

Farmers prohibited from purchasing animals into restricted holdings by the Department of Agriculture must be compensated in full for the losses incurred, and the resulting forced changes to on-farm management practices. These costs of these changes will vary between farms, and according to the time of year. At a minimum, full consequential loss similar to the rates identified in the NFS must be provided, and any taxation issues resolved.

How much progress has been achieved nationally in reducing levels of bovine TB?

Since the late ’90s, the number of reactors has fallen from 40,000 to 15,000 last year. This 62% reduction can be attributed to the successful implementation of the wildlife control programme.

Deer are contributing to bovine TB problems in certain areas. How should this problem be tackled?

The Minister must provide increased resources and funding to ensure a targeted reduction in deer numbers is delivered, under the control of the Department of Agriculture’s veterinary section and wildlife unit, where deer are associated with TB outbreaks.


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