More farmers should be encouraged to participate in the Targeted Advisory Service for Animal Health (TASAH) through direct financial support, according to Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) animal health chair TJ Maher.

Maher said that the introduction of the parasite control plan, launched through the TASAH, is an important starting point, but more could be done to encourage farmers to get involved.

"The TASAH has the potential to ensure better on-farm parasite control, but farmers must be rewarded and supported directly by DAFM for taking part in the TASAH.

"Direct financial support to farmers implementing the TASAH is a key aspect to increase the value for farmers and ultimately drive participation and uptake,” Maher said.

The TASAH needs to be expanded to reward farmers for taking part

The TASAH includes a veterinary farm visit and two faecal egg counts and is open to all cattle and sheep farms.

Funding is available for up to 40,000 farmers to participate this year.

However, Maher said the TASAH needs to be expanded to reward farmers for taking part.

"A competitive supply chain is also important for farmers. The NVPS and TASAH in their current formats do not resolve the competitive supply concerns for anti-parasitic products,” he added.

Additional time

The IFA animal health chair said that the additional time granted by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue’s decision to defer implementation of the prescribing requirement for anti-parasitic products is running out fast.

"The deadline of 1 June is approaching and without meaningful engagement by DAFM with all stakeholders, farmers will be left without access to a competitive supply chain.

"[The] IFA fully support[s] the targeted use of all veterinary medicines, but the critical role played by veterinary pharmacies and license merchants must be recognised and facilitated in the parasite control TASAH," he concluded.