TB partnership is positive move, say frustrated NI farmers

Northern Ireland’s farmers have welcomed the department of agriculture’s latest pledge to involve farmers “at every level” in TB policy-making and eradication, but remain disheartened about the lack of meaningful action in managing the disease in wildlife.

This follows the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (Daera) unveiling of a new bovine tuberculosis eradication partnership (TBEP) at the Royal Ulster Agriculture Society Balmoral Show this week (15 May).

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said eradication is a long way off and farmers are “incredibly frustrated” at the lack of meaningful action on wildlife.

See also: New six-hour TB test approved for ‘exceptional’ use

The TBEP’s eventual aim is to rid Northern Ireland of TB by combining the efforts of vets, farmers, government figures and other industry stakeholders.

TB in Northern Ireland is on the rise

  • As of August 2017, TB was present in 10% of herds and 4.2% of cattle
  • In April 2009 it was present in 6% of herds and 4.2% of cattle

An early meeting has been requested by UFU leaders to establish what control measures can be introduced that won’t hurt farmers.

UFU president Ivor Ferguson said: “The appointment of this group is welcome news and demonstrates that some action can be taken in the current political vacuum.

“However, farmers have repeatedly expressed their anger and frustration to us at the perceived lack of action being taken to tackle this awful disease.”

Fresh thinking

Daera permanent secretary Denis McMahon said his department recognised the high rate of TB incidence and the stress felt by farming families.

TBEP will involve farmers at “every level” and provide a partnership structure of advice and fresh thinking.