asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he will detail the progress of the brucellosis eradication scheme.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Brucellosis Eradication.
Following the enactment in March, 1966, of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1966, which gave me the necessary powers to embark on brucellosis eradication, full scale measures—that is, blood testing followed by slaughter of reactors—were started in County Donegal in May, 1966, and in Counties Cavan, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo in December, 1966. After two rounds of testing County Donegal was declared brucellosis free in June, 1968, and animals from clear herds in this area have now full brucellosis-free status. A third round of testing is at present in operation in the other four counties and we hope that it will be possible to declare them brucellosis-free later this year on the completion of this round.
An extension to the brucellosis blood testing laboratory is at present being built. When this is completed during the summer it will be possible to take on a further group of counties.
Preliminary measures have also been taken in areas not scheduled for early eradication. The calfhood vaccination scheme was introduced in 11 counties including the main dairying counties in June, 1965, and by November, 1967, when it was suspended because of the foot and mouth emergency, nearly 600,000 calves had been vaccinated with Strain 19 against the disease. This scheme has now been replaced by the heifer vaccination scheme, which came into operation last month in approximately the same area. In this scheme the recently developed 45/20 killed vaccine is being used.
In addition, the brucellosis (certified) herds scheme has been available throughout the country to herdowners who might wish to clear their herds in advance of the general measures.
Has the Minister's attention been directed to the exceptional situation obtaining in County Louth, which is the only county, I think, bordering on the Six Counties which is not a brucellosis-testing area and that the Government of Northern Ireland have introduced regulations prohibiting the export of cattle from any area which is not a brucellosis-testing area, with serious repercussions on County Louth? That could be corrected if the Minister would promptly declare it to be a brucellosis-testing area and extend the scheme to that area where the cattle population is not unduly high and the incidence of brucellosis may be expected to be very low.
Louth is in that group of counties in which, everything going well in the meantime in the counties we are already working on, it may be possible to commence operations by the beginning of the next calendar year. As regards the difficulty the Deputy has raised, this is one that I have heard a little about, but I am not quite clear as to its actual impact there. I am having another look at it to see whether it is as serious as the Deputy and others who have been talking to me about it indicate it is. If it is perhaps we could——
Make an exception for Louth.
We may have to do that, but I do not know at this stage.