The Department of Agriculture has asked farmers for their assistance in mapping badger setts.

The ICSA has said that while it is important to know the location of badger setts on farms, it is of equal importance to know if these badgers are infected with TB.

ICSA animal health and welfare chair Hugh Farrell said: “For too long the Department has told us there is no need to TB test badgers in large numbers. The practice of testing only a small number and then estimating a national prevalence rate is just not good enough.

“We are going to need more precise information in our fight against TB. This must involve testing more badgers and delivering greater accuracy around tracking the spread. It must also involve the flow of this information back to farmers.”

Favour vaccination

The farm organisation has welcomed new efforts to reduce the spread of TB and has advised all farmers to view Department advice on protecting their herds from the threat posed by badgers.

Farrell is critical of the push by the Department to limit the culling of badgers in favour of a vaccination programme.

“The argument that a vaccination programme is as effective as a culling programme does not hold weight when we are constantly being informed that TB levels are rising.

“This is particularly relevant in areas like Monaghan and Offaly where the switch to vaccination has coincided with a marked increase in the number of reactors.”

Deer population

The ICSA has said it expects scientific evidence to confirm the fears of many farmers that deer populations are contributing to rising TB levels.

“The Department have been too slow to accept any responsibility in controlling the spread of TB through wild deer,” Farrell said.

“Farmers are more convinced than ever that they are also a key driver in the spread, and ICSA believes scientific evidence will soon bear this out.”

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