Diverse workload for animal health and welfare

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​Welfare in Transport

Over the last six months, the committee has been reflecting on the proposals which have been brought from EU level on a reform of legislation on welfare in transport. This legislation is applicable to Northern Ireland farmers. The proposals attracted intense scrutiny from all of the livestock committees and detailed feedback was provided both directly and via our British Agriculture Bureau office in Brussels. The Commission must now consider the content of the concerns raised by all participants before proceeding to make any amendment to the current legislation.

TB

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) continues to thwart our members on a daily basis. The UFU are engaging with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister, Andrew Muir, with a view to refocus his officials on driving forward the strategy to eradicate bTB from our farms. In the coming weeks, we will be meeting with Minister Muir on a farm to highlight the impact that this disease has on our members. The mammoth task of bTB sits fair on the Minister’s lap, and as a Union, we remain fully committed to driving forward with a meaningful eradication scheme which tackles the disease in all of its hosts.

Bluetongue disease is presenting itself as the biggest known risk to the industry in the coming months. (Picture: Cliff Donaldson)Bluetongue disease is presenting itself as the biggest known risk to the industry in the coming months. (Picture: Cliff Donaldson)
Bluetongue disease is presenting itself as the biggest known risk to the industry in the coming months. (Picture: Cliff Donaldson)

A levy which was operational during 2023, has equipped the industry with the tools that it requires to start on the journey towards eradication of bTB. DAERA by contrast, focused their efforts on delivering a consultation on slashing the payments which farmers receive for animals removed under the bTB programme. This sparked huge anger within our membership, and resulted in a record-breaking response to the consultation which followed the proposal to cut payments. The summary of responses document has not yet been published, but given the mood music from the industry, as a Union we can confidently state that no such proposal will be tolerated. Our executive has already taken action to equip our office bearer team with every tool that is needed to ensure that DAERA do not progress with the proposed cuts.

The competent authority now must pull up their socks and drive forward with the same enthusiasm that was shown by the industry on bringing about disease eradication. The reality is that sustainable cuts in the costs of the bTB programme can only truly be brought about by reducing the incidence of the disease.

BVD

Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) is a disease which also requires a legislative push from the recently appointed Executive at Stormont. Eradication of BVD is within the reaches of Minister Muir. A full suite of measures is required to put this disease into the history books in Northern Ireland. Herd restrictions for non-compliant herd keepers gained the full support of the industry when consulted on during 2023. Immediate implementation of these restrictions will be a key step in reducing infection levels in our herds and makes BVD an easy win for the minister.

Bluetongue

Bluetongue disease is presenting itself as the biggest known risk to our industry in the coming months. The presence of the disease in Great Britain (GB), is thought to have arrived via the wind movement of infected midges from mainland Europe. This prompted an immediate ban on the movement of live animals from GB to NI. This movement restriction has caused several of our members expense and inconvenience. However, having seen firsthand the devastating consequences that the disease brought to farms in the Netherlands, the key priority for the UFU has to be focused on ensuring that bluetongue does not enter our country.

DAERA along with Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Marine (DAFM) in the Republic of Ireland (ROI), are maintaining ongoing surveillance programme for ruminants and also monitoring midge activity. Meanwhile, farmers in the Netherlands are dreading the increased midge populations which will certainly become a reality with the milder weather in spring and summer seasons. A vaccine is needed to protect animals against this strain of bluetongue. Until it is available, those regions which are free from the disease need to concentrate every effort on maintaining that freedom.

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