Bluetongue warnings follow NI imported case
The IFA and DAERA have issued advice to farmers to avoid the risk of bluetongue disease in cattle and sheep.

IFA animal health chair Pat Farrell has urged farmers who are considering the importation of animals to think long and hard of the implications, not only for their own herds but for the country, before taking that risk.

Buetongue disease was found on Thursday in a French heifer brought into Northern Ireland.

Farrell said this was a reminder of the risks associated with importing animals from regions of lower health status and called on the Minister for Agriculture and Department officials to be vigilant on all imports, and to ensure screening on arrival.

Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has urged farmers "not to import animals or germplasm (semen or ova) from bluetongue-affected countries". These include France, Austria and parts of central Europe.

When animals are imported from those regions, they must be isolated until the authorities clear them.

DAERA said the insect-borne disease affects all ruminants and the following clinical signs are most visible in sheep:

  • Fever.
  • Swelling of the head and neck.
  • Lameness.
  • Inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membrane of the mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Drooling.
  • Haemorrhages in the skin and other tissues.
  • Respiratory problems, such as froth in the lungs and an inability to swallow.
  • High mortality rate.
  • Discoloration and swelling of the tongue (rare).
  • Photographs are available to help identify the disease.

    Cattle carrying the virus may show no apparent sign of illness. However, the following may appear in cattle and goats:

  • Nasal discharge.
  • Swelling and ulceration of the mouth.
  • Swollen teats.
  • Suspected cases are confirmed by laboratory tests. An outbreak is declared only after circulation of the virus between several animals has been confirmed. This has not been the case since the imported case was detected in Northern Ireland.

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    Bluetongue detected in Northern Ireland

    €100m autumn payout to beef farmers – Creed
    It is hoped that the European Commission will set out the conditions of its contribution to the €100m beef fund next month.

    Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed intends to pay the €100m Brexit beef fund to farmers in the autumn.

    “The ambition is to see payments commence through the autumn period, but that is all dependent on the terms and conditions set by the European Commission,” a spokesperson for Minister Creed said.

    The Commission will finalise the conditions of its €50m share of the fund at the next meeting of EU agriculture ministers in early June. The Minister then plans “rapid” engagement with stakeholders, before the scheme details are finalised and opened “as a matter of urgency”, his spokesperson said. No formal meetings about the €100m fund have yet taken place between the Department and farm organisations or factories.

    If the €100m were to be paid on every animal slaughtered during the October 2018 to March 2019 reference period, it would equate to a payment of €111/head. However it is understood that a number of options are being considered.

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    Overseas investors buy 4,000ha of forestry
    The transaction between Veon, AXA IM and Gresham House illustrates the rising interest of Paris and London-based investment firms in Irish conifer plantations.

    Forestry consultants Veon have sold 4,074ha of Irish mature forestry plantations across the west of Ireland for an undisclosed sum to Paris-based AXA Investment Managers Real Assets.

    This is the first investment in Irish agriculture for AXA IM, one of the world’s largest private equity firms. It noted that growth in Ireland’s “optimal climate” outperformed its other investments in Finland and France. Christophe Lebrun, the firm’s head of forestry, said this was the largest forestry sale in the UK and Ireland in recent years.

    Timber boom

    Irish timber is forecast to boom and “this acquisition provides us with a significant footprint at the early stage in this growth phase,” he added.

    London firm Gresham House already controls 125,000ha of forestry in the UK and will manage this investment on behalf of AXA IM.

    “It gives us a foothold in Ireland which may benefit our wider asset management business as Brexit unfolds,” Gresham House chief executive Tony Dalwood said, with climate change also a motivation.

    Veon will continue to provide forestry services on the 185 plantations sold.

    Veterinary Council can't control ownership of vet practices
    The president and CEO of the Veterinary Council of Ireland appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture on Tuesday to discuss corporate ownership of veterinary practices.

    Legal changes to the Veterinary Act are needed in order to give the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI) the power to decide who can own veterinary practices, members of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture said on Tuesday.

    Veterinary Council representatives told the committee that it can only regulate veterinary practitioners, not who owns the practices.

    Members of the Oireachtas committee queried whether decisions made by a corporate owner of a veterinary practice could tie the hands of the vets working in it.

    They asked if, for example, the corporate owner decided that a practice would no longer deal with large animals, could the Veterinary Council regulate this?

    The answer from Veterinary Council registrar Niamh Muldoon and president Peadar O Scanaill was that such action does not fall under the council’s legislative remit.

    “Before any corporate gets involved anywhere, the only person who can provide the service and influence the practice and decide what it is going to do is the veterinary practitioner,” O Scannaill said.

    “There isn’t a fourth party. The vet is the first party, we [the Veterinary Council] are the second party, the farmer is the third party.”

    A report by Grant Thornton into corporate ownership of veterinary practices is expected this summer.

    ‘Corporates will cherry pick vet practices’

    Vets have voiced concern over the Veterinary Council saying it has no role in ownership of practices. They say this effectively de-regulates the sector.

    The representative body for vets, Veterinary Ireland, says that the law is clear that non-registered persons can have no involvement in the practise of veterinary medicine.

    “Our big concern with the lay corporates from the UK is that it will lead to the diminution of the service to farmers,” Veterinary Ireland CEO Finbarr Murphy said.

    “Corporates can cherry pick the more profitable parts of the business such as small animal services. The experience in the UK is that services become regionalised and out of hours cover is either too expensive or unavailable.”