The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has said that the Department of Agriculture’s planned changes to TB testing rules will see “just over” 170,000 cattle tested twice in the one year in order to be sold.

The change is to see cattle over the age of 36 months which have not been tested within the six months prior to sale needing a test before leaving the farm or within a month of transfer to the animal’s new owner.

The IFA also stated that the Department had proposed higher payment rates under the income supplement and depopulation grant schemes.

Any increase to slaughter levies would only be agreed upon by the IFA if these monies were used solely for paying farmer grants.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) stated that it had worked to have the fewest number of cattle as possible affected by the testing change and that it expected the Department to fully cover any additional costs associated with the second test for the herds affected.

Both farmer groups are seeking a higher funding allocation for wildlife control programmes, which they say would minimise the transfer of TB from wild animal populations to cattle herds.

Issues remain

Speaking on the changes, IFA animal health chair TJ Maher commented that it too would push for the extra costs to be picked up by the Department.

No decision had been finalised on paying for the new test requirements, Maher maintained.

“The core issue to be resolved is who pays for these tests. [The] IFA has been clear that farmers will not pay for this additional testing requirement.

“Farmers pay for one herd test a year and at no shorter interval than 10 months. All other legislatively required testing must be paid for by the Department of Agriculture and this remains our position,” he said

Compensation ceilings need increasing

The ICSA said that an increase in the compensation payments made by the Department were now on the table and that it had pushed for better compensation rates for farmers going down with TB.

The group stated that it recognises that some increase in the factory slaughter levy may be necessary to achieve this compensation price rise.

“The position now is that, in principle, a much-improved package on payments for farmers with a bad outbreak of TB is on the table, as well as a significantly improved wildlife measures fund,” ICSA animal health and welfare chair Hugh Farrell said.

The €3,000 cap on compensation payments for all stock apart from one stock bull per herd “imposed huge hardship on farmers with high-value stock” and hit high-value herds, such as those breeding pedigrees, particularly hard, Farrell added.

“In that context, we accept that some increase in the levy paid on cattle slaughtered (around 13c/head) might be warranted, provided it is 100% used for increased payments to farmers with bad outbreaks of TB.

“This would cover income supplement, depopulation and hardship grants, which has been a long-standing sore for the farmers affected.”

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