Herd categorisation and how it impacts negatively on prices and the proposal to display 10-year TB history on mart boards were issues raised at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture on Wednesday.

Senator for the agricultural panel and Independent TD Victor Boyhan said TB herd categorisation is one of the biggest issues concerning farmers in his constituency, as it is devaluing the cattle being sold at marts.

"I see the flaws, I see the negativity, I see the impact on prices in marts," Senator Boyhan said.

He argued that if animals have a clean bill of health, why should they be categorised.

'Legal and right'

"You either have a clear bill of health and you are in the mart because it is legal and right and appropriate or you don't and if not, what's the integrity of the system?"

Macra na Feirme president John Keane said that the impact this has financially on farmers is something which needs "far greater thinking".

Keane said that as well as receiving a lower return from the market, there is a cycle of continued impact on that farmer as a result of this categorisation.


"Science will also tell us that a third of farms that become infected with TB will have a re-occurrence of infection within the following two to three years," he added.

General secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) Eddie Punch said that the Government is "hung up" on past track records being displayed on mart boards.

He said that by saying one farm isn't as safe a source of cattle than another because it had TB three or four years ago is "a dangerous road to go down".

"The implication is the devaluation of one herd compared to another and in the end, it is also devaluing the merit of the actual hurt test.

"If someone's herd test indicates that all their stock is clear, you either accept that, which is the foundation of the entire TB programme, or you don't."

Now mart proceedings are live on video, you would now be advertising it wide and far

Punch added that it creates an appalling vista where people would be financially devastated by having their herds devalued.

"[The] ICSA and other farm organisations were deeply alarmed at foresee of all the proposals that this will be put up in mart boards and now mart proceedings are live on video, you would now be advertising it wide and far," he told the committee.

Punch concluded by saying that the ICSA don't accept this to be a good road to go down, adding " the TB testing programme either works or it doesn't".

Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) senior policy executive Tomás Burke said that categorisation on identification cards was a crude approach, especially for calves that are very unlikely to go down with TB.

"Two-thirds of the TB reactors in this country are coming from the cow population," he said.


He added that it had the impact of devaluing 75% of the animals that are traded in this country.

Burke said that herd categorisation does not contribute to eradication of disease.

"It has no place in the Irish TB programme, because it fails to recognise the unique dynamic of the Irish farming infrastructure and the high dependence of the vast majority of farmers in this country on trade.

"We have weanlings born on small-scale farms around the peripheral areas of the country, which are then subsequently traded on to larger farms for feeding," he said.

Burke also argued that this is a major issue for dairy farms that need to move calves from their farms in order to sustain and maintain the production systems we have.

"The science nor the figures back any advance or any further advance in the devaluing of our herds to this blacklist, an approach we continue to reject," he concluded.