Development of a more competitive industry required

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The final day of this year’s Balmoral Show was marked by calls from the recently formed Pedigree Cattle Trust for local livestock farmers to have greater access to new technologies, which will fast track the production potential of the industry.

Spokesman Brian Walker highlighted the tremendous strides made by the livestock industry in the Irish Republic, where genomics is concerned.

“Here in Northern Ireland we are only scratching the surface, in terms of utilising the potential which this breeding technology can bring to the table,” he said.

“In total contrast the entire cattle industry in the Republic has been reaping the benefits of a national breeding programme based on genomic selection for years.”

Walker went on to confirm the need for the cattle industry in Northern Ireland to eradicate Bovine TB within the next decade.

“This is feasible. But it will take our Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to introduce new disease testing procedures. This week has seen the authorities in England introduce a new blood test, which is extremely accurate where both TB and Johne’s Disease are concerned.

“There is also an absolute requirement to tackle the TB problem in wildlife. We know that badgers both harbour the disease and transmit it to cattle.”

Provided steps of this nature are taken, Walker did not rule out the possibility of farmers part-funding the campaign to eradicate TB in cattle. The Balmoral event marked the first anniversary of the Trust’s formation. Walker said that the new organisation will seek to form partnerships with all of the key decision making groups within the livestock sectors in order to forward the aspiration of all pedigree cattle breeders.

“The superior quality of the local cattle industry has long been recognised but we believe it is important that we join together to do all we can to promote the high quality beef and dairy, both at home and right across the world,” he said.

“As pedigree breeders, we are dedicated to improving the quality, genetics and marketability of our animals. Not only do we depend on them for our livelihood, but the standard of our local herds is also vital to the interests of the processors, retailers and ultimately the consumers.”

Walker continued: “Our aim is to work with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, local government agencies, vets, meat processors, retailers and political representatives.

“We will also represent the interests of all pedigree breeders where issues such as disease control, animal identification, cattle movements, genomics and Brexit are concerned.”