Deer numbers are rising so quickly in west Waterford that a local councillor has called for a cull.
Fine Gael councillor and farmer Pat Nugent said the deer are becoming so plentiful that they are moving down from hill lands to sea level to seek out more grazing.
The result, he told the Irish Farmers Journal, is that farmers are fearful they are spreading TB as they move.
“Three or four herds have gone down with TB in the west Waterford area in a place where there was never TB,” he said.
“They can’t say 100% that it is the deer but they believe it is.”
“I got a call from one farmer at the weekend and he sent me a photo of 25 deer lying out in the field with his Charolais cattle,” added Nugent.
It’s alright to be talking about lovely deer until they’re pulling down fences and grazing the fields
The growing deer numbers are a concern for farmers not just because of the disease risk but also damage to grazing ground and fencing.
Deer are now moving down to the Glenbeg School area, just two miles outside Dungarvan, and they are a particular problem for farmers in the Knockanore/Tallow area bordering Co Cork.
In early April, researchers from Trinity College and the National Parks and Wildlife Service confirmed a link between Sika deer numbers and TB infection in cattle. The issue was particularly acute in Co Wicklow.
Not everyone agrees that a cull is needed in the Waterford region though.
“I’ve had calls from people talking about the lovely deer but it’s alright to be talking about lovely deer until they’re pulling down fences and grazing the fields. It’s a live issue in rural Ireland,” Nugent said.