Farmers have been “left in the dark” over a new suckler scheme, which includes a testing requirement for infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), a farm organization has warned today (Tuesday, September 5).
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmer’s Association (ICSA) said the inclusion of an IBR testing requirement in the National Beef Welfare Scheme (NBWS) and the lack of clarity around the outcome of a positive test is too ambiguous.
ICSA animal health and welfare chair, Hugh Farrell, said “confusion reigns supreme in relation to a strategy for IBR” and the NBWS.
The new scheme, announced last month by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, will pay farmers €15 for each animal tested, up to a maximum of 20 animals.
The scheme – which closes for applications on Tuesday, September 12 – in its current format, according to the ICSA “does not represent a coherent step forward”.
‘Left in the dark’
The organization has raised concerns over the testing requirement that farmers must fulfill to take part in the scheme, which is managed by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).
“Farmers have been left in the dark about the implications of a positive test,” according to Farrell.
As part of the IBR testing, according to the department, farmers must engage a vet who will test up to 20 animals per herd, at nine-months-old or above if present in the herd, or all ages if there is less than 20 in the herd for IBR antibodies.
“Farmers are concerned about what the impact of a positive will be on their farming in terms of ability to export weanlings, possible implications for domestic sales and the potential cost of an annual vaccination program.
“ICSA has raised these issues in a recent meeting with the chair and chief executive (CEO) of Animal Health Ireland (AHI).
“The problem is that the closing date for the scheme is September 12 and suckler farmers still do not know what will happen to their herds if they turn up with a positive IBR result.
“We need clarity around this urgently,” Farrell added.
Scheme deadline extension
He also has the application deadline for the NBWS to be pushed out to the end of September.
“Farmers need clarity which they haven’t received yet in relation to the IBR element of the new scheme,” he said.
“The minister needs to engage with all the stakeholders on the IBR working group to look at the strategy in a more coherent way.
“There is also a concern that money that was promised for the suckler farmer is now being used to fund a program when we had been expecting that separate funding would be available for an IBR program on the basis that dairy and suckler farmers would be treated the same.
“This is not now the case.”
Meanwhile, a meeting of the AHI IBR group is scheduled for September 14.
According to Farrell it would be better “if that meeting had a clear picture from the minister on the long-term intentions regarding funding the IBR strategy, before farmers make a decision on the new scheme.”
AHI has previously welcomed the testing measure in the scheme, with Dr. Michael Gunn, who chairs AHI’s technical working group (TWG) on IBR, saying that the testing measure in the scheme is aligned to the TWG’s recommendations for a strategic approach to IBR control .