The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says it is opposed to an EU proposal to introduce movement testing for TB on all cattle that are over six months from their previous test date.
The comments were made after the UFU submitted its response to a consultation on the new EU Animal Health Law Delegated regulation, which covers animal disease notification, reporting, surveillance, eradication and disease-free status.
UFU deputy president, David Brown said: “There are a number of proposals in the consultation that, if adopted, could damage our livestock industry and are difficult to justify as suitable options. We are not alone in our assessment and would encourage the EU Commission to work with stakeholders to revise the proposals. We want to see legislation that effectively supports the eradication of disease within an industry that is productive and profitable.”
The UFU says movement testing for TB has already been considered in Northern Ireland by the TB Strategic Partnership and was found to be of limited benefit.
Mr Brown continued: “Due to the current level of TB testing in Northern Ireland, movement testing would only be beneficial in a small number of cases. It would be more effective to use available resources to enhance detection of infection, reduce the risk of residual infection in herds, and target infection in the local wildlife reservoir.” Mr Brown says the UFU is also concerned about proposals relating to herd restrictions. “Under the current EU proposals, some herds may find themselves slipping into a situation where they are restricted for 12 months. This would be particularly devastating for smaller suckler herds in Northern Ireland. In many cases, these farmers lack winter accommodation and silage reserves so sell stock in the winter months to larger finishing units.
“If they were facing a herd restriction and unable to sell animals for 12 months this would be a significant blow. It would cut off a major market route, leading to potential animal welfare issues, mental stress and cash flow problems,” he said. The UFU will continue to work with farming union counterparts and politicians to seek amendments to these proposals.
Meanwhile Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Animal Health chairman Pat Farrell has called on Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed TD, to stand firm on the outright rejection of the EU’s new TB testing procedures.
He said the only beneficiaries of this proposal will be vets and factories at the expense of farmers.
The IFA chairman said this proposal is not scientifically based, will be a major impediment to the competitive marketing of animals; and could cost the Irish TB programme up to €20m a year.
The IFA chairman said Ireland’s newly elected MEPs also have a critical role to play in protecting Irish farmers from this unscientific, market distorting and anti-competitive proposal.
Mr Farrell said that both Creed and MEPs cannot allow the EU to impose this anti-competitive market distorting expense on Irish farmers who already incur a disproportionate cost burden in the TB programme in comparison to all other farmers throughout the EU.
He said this measure would have a huge distortion to the sales and marketing of cattle in this country and would impact very negatively on the functioning of Ireland’s vital live export trade.
Mr Farrell also pointed out the EU’s new TB testing proposals will impact severely on marts and throughput in mart sales as the additional costs and inconvenience will drive more farmers directly to factories, removing vital competition to the benefit of factories.