The former chair of two expert groups tasked with advising DAERA on policy around bovine TB eradication, has hit out at Department plans to reduce the amount paid to farmers for TB-reactor cattle.

A potential cut of up to 25% in reactor values is currently the subject of a public consultation and comes only a few months after DAERA lost a judicial review around plans to cull badgers in TB hotspot areas.

“It smacks of DAERA turning its guns on herd owners to detract from the failure of their judicial review incompetence. The conversation is now on compensation and not on DAERA’s failures,” Seán Hogan OBE told the Irish Farmers Journal.

Hogan chaired both the TB Strategic Partnership Group (TBSPG) and its successor, the TB Eradication Partnership (TBEP). The TBEP was set up in 2018, with its term of office expiring at the end of 2023.

For those involved, it has been a slow and frustrating process and, according to Hogan, the focus needs to remain on why little progress has been made.

“This debacle didn’t materialise overnight, instead it has been repeated decision failures marinated in systemic incompetence and departmental cowardice that brought us to this point. The blame and therefore the burden should not lie with farmers,” he said.


The Association of Veterinary Surgeons Practising in NI (AVSPNI) has also made their views clear, suggesting that the DAERA plan is driven by budget issues rather than disease control.

“Cutting compensation payments for reactor animals as a stand-alone policy, effectively punishes farmers for a multi-factorial disease whose spread is driven by many aspects that are completely beyond their control,” reads an AVSPNI statement.

The organisation goes on to urge DAERA to follow the example of other parts of the UK and Ireland, which have “delivered on targeted and scientifically justified wildlife intervention”.


Adding to the calls for plans to cut compensation to be scrapped, the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has highlighted how the move threatens the viability of family farms, especially those with a significant breakdown.

“DAERA’s proposals will impact far beyond the farm gate. This will also have a domino effect on other businesses which trade with farmers,” said UFU deputy president, John McLenaghan.

That view has been echoed by Cormac McKervey from the Ulster Bank, who pointed to the lost income when TB is found in a dairy or beef herd.

“The cut [to stock payments] would magnify the already difficult financial and mental pressure felt by farmers following a TB breakdown,” he said.

The DAERA consultation closes on 8 March and farmers are urged to make their views known.

TB statistics

Meanwhile, the latest TB results published by DAERA show that in November 2023 annual herd incidence (number of new TB reactor herds as a proportion of those tested) stood at 10.08%, down slightly on the peaks of nearly 11% seen earlier in 2023.

Despite that recent fall in the disease rate, there have still been 16,372 reactors found at TB tests across the first 11 months of 2023, up 5% on 2022 and 26% ahead of the same period in 2021.

The highest herd incidence rate in 2023 is in the area covered by Enniskillen Divisional Veterinary Office (DVO), followed by Newtownards, Coleraine and Ballymena DVOs.

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