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Written Answers - Bovine Disease Controls

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 411.  Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding bovine TB; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23815/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The correspondence referred to is a transcript of a recent article in the Irish Examiner dated Thursday, 26 April 2012. The article in question deals with the recent changes introduced by my Department for dealing with the movement of cattle out of herds which are contiguous to or neighbouring herds which are experiencing a high risk TB breakdown. However, it attempts to undermine the importance of the changes by referring to a document published on my Department’s website which, it claims, contains contradictory statistics on the number of herds and animals. It is evident from a cursory examination of the document, which contains track changes as well as blanks/highlighted material for further review, that it was not a final document. Indeed, it was an early version of my Department’s application for EU aid and was not even in the correct format and was inadvertently inserted on to our website, for which I apologise. The correct and final version of the document, which was submitted to the EU Commission on 30 April 2011, is now available on the Department’s website at www.agriculture.gov.ie. With regard to the supposedly contradictory statistics, the differences are due to projected and actual outturns relating to the number of herds in the country (and animals in the national herd) compared with the number actually tested.

With regard to the recent changes to the TB eradication programme, the article makes particular reference to the changed policy in relation to the testing of herds neighbouring a herd experiencing a TB breakdown. The net change made by my Department is that herds which, following an epidemiological investigation, have been identified as a relevant contiguous herd to a high risk breakdown and have not had a full herd test within the previous 4 months, will be prevented from selling cattle on the open market pending a full clear herd test. However, such herds are permitted to move cattle direct to slaughter and to buy-in cattle under permit. They will also be immediately de-restricted once they have passed a TB herd test. The rationale for this policy change is to protect clear herds from the cost and restriction arising from buying in infected animals from these herds. Statistics available to my Department show that animals in herds which are contiguous to high risk breakdowns are 3 times more likely to have TB infected animals than “normal” herds, indicating that the risk of TB spreading from herds which are contiguous to high risk breakdowns is very significant. Prior to this change, [460]such herds were free to trade until they passed a herd test and many herdowners availed of this facility to sell animals, thereby spreading TB to clear herds.

With regard to the example given in the Article, if the farmer mentioned in the article happened to be unfortunate enough to buy in infected animals from a herd which is contiguous to a high risk breakdown, he would be justified in criticising my Department for not preventing the sale of these animals. Alternatively, if reactors were disclosed at a test on his herd and if my Department had not imposed pre-test movement restrictions on his herd, there would be a 3 fold risk that any cattle he sold prior to the test would spread disease and be the cause of a TB breakdown in the herd of another, if not several, unsuspecting farmers resulting in a restriction, with a minimum of two clear tests required, for that herd to be de-restricted.

In conclusion, the policy is designed to protect farmers from buying in infected animals and to reduce both the incidence of this disease and the cost to herdowners and my Department arising from the spread of disease.


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