Representatives of the Pedigree Cattle Trust, which was launched at this year’s Balmoral Show, recently met with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey to discuss matters of mutual concern.
Discussion centred on the rising incidence of Tuberculosis (TB). The average annual TB herd incidence in Northern Ireland is now 8.5%. This means that some areas are considerably in excess of that percentage.
According to the Trust’s Brian Walker, TB is a complex disease and there are many factors that can influence disease levels.
He added: “It is, therefore, difficult for the DAERA to establish why the incidence rates have risen to current levels.
“I acknowledge the new spirit of co-operation between the farming community and DAERA’s Veterinary Service Animal Health Group. In the present political situation, the Department has very considerable difficulties in implementing any new TB eradication plan.
“The independent TB Strategic Partnership Group has recently published its TB Eradication Strategy and I recognise that the Department is doing everything in its power to move forward on many of the recommendations in that report.”
Walker confirmed that both DAERA and the Pedigree Cattle Trust recognise the role that wildlife can play in the maintenance and spread of TB infection, adding: “This issue has to be addressed in a transparent manner which would ensure the survival of healthy cattle and survival of healthy wildlife.”
Walker vigorously pressed the need for a person nominated by the Cattle Trust to have a seat on the new Partnership Board and, furthermore, that all of the persons nominated to this new body would have the confidence of both the farming community and government.
There was also an exchange of views on the issue of funding. But both sides accepted that whatever conclusion was reached had to be transparent, efficient and fair.
Walker stressed that the farming community was already solely responsible for all the consequential losses incurred once a reactor animal is confirmed.
It was agreed that there would be regular meetings between the Trust and the Department in the common interest of eradicating TB through an effective strategy, the success of which is dependent on securing the confidence and goodwill of the farming community.