The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has stated that it is opposed to the Department of Agriculture’s suggestion that the TB eradication programme could introduce regionalised measures, which would restrict the cattle trade.

The Department’s scientific working group on TB gave the opinion that the country should be divided into regions based on TB risk, with a review to beefing up control measures in some areas before others.

The association’s animal health and welfare chair Hugh Farrell said that other farm organisations have opposed the proposals when they were presented to the TB forum.

'Completely unworkable'

Farrell insists that the proposal is “completely unworkable in an Irish context”, as farming here is different from the systems in other countries where regionalisation was rolled out.

“In fact, there was no doubt at all at the TB forum that this was not acceptable to the farming representatives,” Farrell commented.

“In our view, the chair of the TB forum accepted the opposition and, as far as we are concerned, the proposal is already dead in the water.

“There has been a lot of frustration among farming representatives at the ‘it worked in Australia’ approach to TB eradication.

“There is no point in comparing apples with oranges. Irish farming is completely dependent on trade between western counties and eastern counties.

'No simplistic solution'

“There is no simplistic solution to the fact that fattening of cattle takes place mainly in midland and eastern counties and that the west of Ireland is predominantly more suited to sucklers and sheep.”

The ICSA stated that it is opposed to a scenario where farmers could face restrictions on who they buy or sell cattle to.

“This would put such farmers at a huge economic loss because their cattle would be devalued. In the absence of any guarantees that such losses would be compensated [for, the] ICSA cannot accept regionalisation,” said Farrell.

The animal health and welfare chair added that the Department should improve wildlife control and on-time reactor removals before pursuing new TB control measures for farmers.

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