The Department of Agriculture has ruled out any link between the increasing numbers of wild deer in south Kerry and the biggest outbreak of bovine TB in living memory in the area.
Dozens of farms are in lockdown and 360 cattle have been removed from slaughter, in an area between Kells and Caherdaniel, on the Iveragh peninsula.
Deer and badgers are suspected. At a recent Kerry County Council meeting in Killorglin, questions about the role of deer in the outbreak were raised and emergency motions demanded a department response.
The department confirmed that “evidence to date” supports the view that badgers have contributed to the spread of the TB.
“Badger-capturing is now taking place to reduce the badger density in this area, which has not experienced this type of outbreak in recent times.”
Badger clans, not subject to a previous capture, were being targeted.
“Where badgers are identified as a possible source, a survey is carried out and badgers captured and removed.”
The department said: “There is no evidence of any deer involvement in this outbreak, at this time. A further contributory factor in the area is the number of (cattle) herd fragments which aid the spread of the disease.
“The department acknowledges the concerns, and fully understands the stress associated with disease events on farms.
“It continues to work with farmers, and veterinary practitioners, in bringing this outbreak under control.”
However, farmers, and some public representatives, are suspicious of deers, with numbers increasing, due to forestry investment.
The chairman of Kerry IFA, Pat O’Driscoll, said the problem will not be solved just by testing and removing cattle from the peninsula. He said all contributing sources must be identified.
The IFA, he said, had met with National Parks and Wildlife officials and received assurances that farmers would be provided with the relevant licences to address the problems associated with deer.
Kerry IFA animal health chairman, Kenneth O’Connell, said the IFA was pursuing, through the National Deer Management Forum, the establishment of a national management programme throughout the country, “and in particular where deer are associated with TB outbreaks”.
The IFA is also seeking changes to both the live-valuation scheme, and the consequential loss schemes, to offset the financial impact of TB breakdowns for farmers, he said.
Meanwhile, the Irish Wild Deer Association’s Damian Hannigan, a member of the national forum, said while deer, like any other animal, could contract TB, there were different strains.
“There is no evidence to show there is a link between the spread of TB to cattle and deer,” he said.
“TB diseases on farms is devastating. But to suggest deer are, in any shape or form, responsible, is to muddy the waters,” he said.
He noted that deer numbers existed only in small pockets around Caherciveen, and while South Kerry, generally, had undergone a lot of clear-felling of forestry, the activities might have disturbed badger sets.
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