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IFA National Animal Health Chairman Pat Farrell said the inaction by the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed in addressing the issues around the large animal veterinary service in the country, which IFA has raised since 2017, is now exposing some farmers to call out fees of up to €500.

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IFA Animal Health Chairman Pat Farrell has called on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and his officials to strongly reject the proposal to impose a 30-day pre-movement TB test on animals in the Delegated Acts under the New EU Animal Health Law.

The IFA Chairman said the imposition of this control on animal movements would impact severely on the normal trade for cattle and add enormous unnecessary costs to the TB programme.

Pat Farrell said farmers are already at breaking point with the restrictions imposed on them by the Department of Agriculture in the TB programme and the suggestion that this burden could be increased for all farmers is unacceptable.

The IFA Chairman said proposals in the latest draft of the Delegated Act requires all herds that are over six months since a TB test to have a 30-day pre-movement test in order to be eligible for movement.

This measure is not scientifically based, will not contribute to eradication of the disease and will add an enormous cost to the TB programme which farmers will not accept.

Pat Farrell said Minister Creed and his officials cannot under any circumstances allow this movement restriction to be adopted in the Delegated Act currently reaching conclusion in the Commission.

IFA Animal Health Chairman Pat Farrell said the latest survey of the cost of fallen animal disposal carried out by IFA highlights the impact a lack of competition is having in some areas in exposing farmers to exorbitant and unjustified charges.

Pat Farrell said it is clear from the survey results that where meaningful competition exists, farmers have access to a competitively priced fallen animal disposal system. However, in areas dependent on a single service provider, the costs can be twice the national average.

Detailing some of the prices established in the survey, Pat Farrell said the average disposal costs for calves is €25, but ranges from €10 to as high as €50.

The average price for weanlings (6 to 12 months) is €53 with a huge price range from €20 to €75 per animal.

Pat Farrell said the most expensive category continues to be 24 to 48-month old animals, which are averaging just over €100. The cost ranges from €60 to a high of €130.

Pat Farrell said farmers who live in close proximity to a knackery are availing of much lower disposal costs where they can deliver their animals directly. Typically, in these cases, charges are €10 to €30 less than collected charges. “All farmers should have access to a competitively priced disposal system for fallen animals and he called on the Department of Agriculture to address the shortcomings in the current system.”

With the national sheep flock of 2.5m ewes about to commence lambing, IFA National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy has issued a strong warning to all dog owners. He said “Dog owners can be held responsible for any losses involved in dog attacks on sheep, with serious financial and legal consequences. Farmers have a right to protect their sheep flock and can shoot a dog worrying, or about to worry their flock.”

Sean Dennehy said the incidents of dog attacks on sheep increase at this time of year. He said “In recent weeks we have reports of attacks from all over the country. In county Louth alone, we have reports of 42 sheep killed in the last 2 months.”

Sean Dennehy said marauding dogs can inflict horrendous damage on a sheep flock. Statistics collated by IFA indicate that the problem of dog attacks on sheep may be in the order of 300 to 400 attacks per annum, with 3,000 to 4,000 sheep injured and killed. Data on dog attacks gathered by the IFA shows an average of 11 sheep killed or injured per attack.

The IFA Sheep Farmers leader issued a stark warning to all dog owners of their responsibility to keep their pets are under control at all times. “Unfortunately, I am taking calls on a frequent basis from sheep farmers around the country who have suffered attacks. There are far too many dog owners not taking the responsibility that goes with owning a pet. Dog owners have an obligation to have their dog under control at all times”.

Sean Dennehy reminded all dog owners, including farmers, that it is a legal requirement that they microchip and register their dogs. He said under the Animal Health and Welfare Act all dogs must be microchipped and registered on an authorised database since March 31st 2016.

Sean Dennehy said IFA has a detailed Protocol to help farmers who encounter a dog attack on their sheep flock. The IFA protocol involves an easy-to- follow, 10-point Plan of Action covering what a farmer should do following a dog attack or sheep kill.

“Based on the feedback IFA gets from farmers who have had to deal with a dog attack on their flock, one of the biggest problems is the lack of information on what they should do, who they should contact and where can they get help.”

The IFA Protocol deals with these basic questions and also outlines important aspects of the law and how the dog warden service and the Garda can help. It also sets out how to keep a full record of the attack, which can be used as evidence at a later stage.

Sean Dennehy also called on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to re-run the TV advertisement campaign on responsible dog ownership from the 1980’s. He said the TV ad was an excellent reminder to warn dog owners about the dangers of letting their pet out at night and the serious damage they could do to a sheep flock. The key message was “Keep your dog under control. Running free he can be a killer.”

IFA Animal Health Chairman Pat Farrell said the detection of Bluetongue in an imported animal in NI is a reminder of the risks associated with importing animals from regions of lower health status.

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