Bovine TB proposals a ‘mixed bag’, says UFU

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The UFU has said it has some serious concerns around proposals for tackling the worsening incidences of bovine TB in Northern Ireland.

On Thursday the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) launched a public consultation on a range of proposals in response to the report produced by the independent TB Strategic Partnership Group (TBSPG) in December 2016.

They include a badger cull and vaccination in targeted areas, changes to the compensation system paid to farmers, and the introduction of a payment for an annual herd test.

Chief veterinary officer Robert Huey has urged those who are interested in the issue to read the proposals in full and respond before the consultation period ends on February 1, 2018.

He said he was all too aware of the devastating impact of bovine TB right across the agriculture industry. The rates of bovine TB continue to rise and latest figures show a herd incidence rate of 9.26%.

Mr Huey added: “Given the significant rise in the incidence of bovine TB, the concern of the farming community and the pressure that rising bovine TB programme costs has on our budget, the department has decided that, in the broader public interest, we should move forward with a consultation on proposals responding to the recommendations made by TBSPG last December.”

The key proposals are:

q New management/partnership arrangements with a Northern Ireland Eradication Partnership Board, three sub-regional boards and ad hoc local disease teams;

q A number of enhancements and additions to the existing bovine TB Eradication Programme;

q A programme of badger removal and vaccination in targeted areas;

q Greater emphasis and ownership by the farming industry on reducing risk through better herd health management;

q Changes to the compensation system and the introduction of a payment for an annual herd test.

Victor Chestnutt, Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president, has described DAERA’s consultation on plans for tackling TB as ‘a mixed bag’ and said while there are some proposals the union can support, they have serious concerns about others.

Mr Chestnutt said it is positive the department recognises the need to address TB in wildlife and the union will be making a strong case for a robust wildlife intervention programme.

He added: “The union has always argued that meaningful action to tackle TB in wildlife must be taken before changes to compensation or how tests are paid for is even considered. To date, the department has failed to do this. We have serious concerns about any suggested changes to compensation or testing without the implementation of robust action to tackle TB in wildlife.”

The UFU said it is also supportive of the proposals to create an overarching body and regional bodies to help coordinate efforts to eradicate TB.

Responses can be made at https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/daera-tb-br-policy-and-research/tb-eradication-strategy-consultation