Commenting on the herd restrictions being imposed by the Department of Agriculture on PI retaining herds and the notification of neighbouring farmers, IFA Animal Health Chairman Bert Stewart said it is disappointing the Department has adopted this approach rather than providing adequate levels of financial support, which IFA have sought from the outset in the programme, to ensure the timely removal of all PI’s.
IFA have made detailed submissions to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney outlining the levels and importance of meaningful financial support for farmers who find themselves in the difficult situation of having to dispose of PI animals from their herds and the associated immediate direct losses. “While the Minister has increased the levels of financial support for 2015, stronger and higher levels of support from the start of the programme would have negated the need of the current controls as farmers would have been better positioned to immediately dispose of these animals to protect their herds and the herds of their neighbours.”
The IFA Chairman said the early disposal of PI animals is critical if the programme is to achieve its objectives in the shortest timeframes possible and to this end huge progress has been made with 27,786 PI animals removed from the national herd since the beginning of the compulsory programme, with only a total of 658 of those identified in 2013 and 2014, remaining on less than 350 farms, based on AHI figures. Furthermore, he said over 98% of all animals in the national herd now have a status determined for BVD.
The IFA Chairman said it is now crucial that farmers are given clear direction as to what the remainder of the BVD eradication programme will contain and what the costs involved will be for farmers. He said the original programme announced by AHI of three years tissue tagging and a further three years of lower cost, lower level monitoring has been proven to be unattainable following the modelling work carried out on behalf of the BVD implementation group. He said based on the dynamics of the Irish livestock sector no viable alternative to tissue tagging is available and as a result farmers will be faced with a continuation of tissue tag testing, however the cost of this testing must be reduced significantly and clarity must be provided based on reaching targets within the programme as to when farmers will be in a position to cease testing for the disease.
The IFA Chairman said BVD testing is costing farmers €9m annually and while eradication will provide returns on this investment, these costs must be removed in the shortest timeframes possible. Bert Stewart said AHI must now provide clear and detailed plans including the type of and costs associated with the final phase of monitoring to achieve BVD free status.
The IFA Chairman has also called on the Department of Agriculture to immediately issue payments to farmers who disposed of PI claves in 2014.