As the discussions on TB eradication by 2030 continue, there have been calls for a comprehensive research programme into the link between TB in deer and cattle.
Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) animal health chair Hugh Farrell has said it is no longer acceptable for the Department of Agriculture to turn a blind eye to potential links.
He said there were numerous examples of bovine TB blackspots coinciding with areas where wild deer populations were out of control and encroaching on farmland.
Farrell said: “It is a stated objective of the Department to eliminate TB, but this cannot be achieved unless we know exactly what is going on with TB in deer and what can be done to eliminate the risk of transmission to cattle.
“The only way we can do that is to conduct comprehensive research and trials on a pilot basis in areas where farmers are complaining about the impact of deer.”
He said there must be full openness and transparency around the results of any trial conducted.
He added that it was “all very well” to say there was no evidence of a link, but asked the question if the Department had tried hard enough to find one.
He also said there had been a reluctance by the Department to test some deer.
“There is anecdotal evidence of deer being shot, but deemed totally unsuitable for the food chain because of chronic infection.
“However, when farmers have brought this to the attention of the Department, there has been a marked reluctance to test the deer in question.”
Farrell concluded by saying the ICSA had requested the presence of officials from the Department’s wildlife unit at the next TB forum meeting on Wednesday 16 January.