Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 1 October 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
TB Eradication Programme: Discussion
Mr. Tomás Bourke:
I understand the Deputy, but my point is that zero grazing effectively replicates six months of the winter feeding for 12 months, but it all comes back to the fact that there is obviously infected wildlife in the area and that may make the outbreak worse because the animals are in a confined space for a longer period.
It comes down to addressing the issue in wildlife, reducing the density to reduce the interaction with the cattle and the risk of a breakdown.
I will respond to a few points that Deputy Cahill made because I agree with several of them. The sale of young stock to feedlots has two effects on farms in a TB outbreak. One is the restriction, which results in additional animals being maintained which adds enormous cost and difficulty. The second is where significant numbers of animals have been removed and there is a significant income loss. In the first instance, the IFA proposal is that the hardship grant scheme would recognise the additional costs associated with that and support the farmers through it, allowing them then to choose whether to sell the animals at a significantly reduced rate to the feedlots, which is their only option, or invest the support in managing and maintaining them.
The IFA position on badger vaccination is reserved, considering the experience in Monaghan. The reduction in the numbers of badgers throughout the country has been very effective and has significantly contributed to the health status of the badger since the early 2000s. It is hoped that vaccination will be the next phase. We are concerned, however, because of the experience in Monaghan, which has continued for the past 18 months to two years with little indication of a significant improvement. We have asked for a detailed analysis of the situation and for a detailed investigation to identify what has contributed to it, because unfortunately that area is consistent with the vaccination area in that county or the most difficult part of it.
The pre-movement test is an EU proposal for the clearest herds in the country. A farmer in a problem is in a four-month test cycle. This proposal precludes any of those herds from having to do that. The highest risk areas in the country are not required under this proposal to do a pre-movement test. In the areas with the lowest incidence, where there is only one test a year, no TB breakdowns, and the farmers are not contiguous, they are exposed to a pre-movement test obligation. The Department's figures show that only 7.5% of breakdowns in the country annually are related to animal movements. We are concerned about the return on investment of potentially up to €20 million on a pre-movement test when we are looking for significantly less to address the compensatory deficiencies that will allow us to put in place meaningful measures in the problem areas to address this in the ten-year window set out.