Thursday, 6 December 2018

Questions (19)

Martin Kenny


19. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether it is counterproductive to eradicating tuberculosis to allow inconclusive TB reactor cattle to move to and be finished in beef herds (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51166/18]

View answer

Oral answers (4 contributions) (Question to Agriculture)

Does the Minister believe it is counterproductive for the eradication of tuberculosis to allow inconclusive TB reactor cattle to move to and be finished in beef herds?

Under EU Directive 64/432, inconclusive animals that have passed a retest are not required to be slaughtered. Research carried out in Ireland found that such animals were 12 times more likely to be positive for TB at the next test or slaughter compared with their test-negative counterparts. As a result of that research, my Department adopted a policy in 2012 which restricted such animals to the herd for life until slaughter, or allowed them to move to a restricted feedlot from where they would be slaughtered. Such animals cannot be traded on the open market. Allowing these animals to move to a restricted feedlot where, by nature of the official supervisory protocol in place, all animals are slaughtered, they are prevented from circulating with other animals which may be sold on the open market. This means the risk of them causing a new TB breakdown is further reduced.

Under the tuberculosis programme, a feedlot herd is a restricted herd that comprises a non-breeding unit which disposes of all cattle direct for slaughter and fulfils at least one of the following three criteria. First, the cattle are permanently housed and never on pasture. Second, there are no contiguous holdings or lands with cattle, meaning they must not have any neighbour contacts either through cattle being confined exclusively in yards or buildings or, if intending to graze cattle, the land is secured in order that there can be no contact with cattle, for example, surrounded by tillage, residential, industrial or recreational units or impenetrable rivers, roads or walls. Third, the boundaries are walled, double-fenced or equivalent so as to prevent any direct contact with cattle on contiguous lands, premises or holdings. Furthermore, there must be no evidence of in-herd acquisition or spread of TB. Thus, a feedlot herd is a herd that poses minimal risk of infecting other cattle because of effective isolation from other herds.

As part of an ongoing review of the tuberculosis programme, my Department policy on inconclusive TB animals is one of a number of areas currently being evaluated.

There is deep concern among farmers who neighbour feedlots that house animals for which test results have been inconclusive. They believe this practice carries a high risk and their economic sustainability is substantially impacted if their farm is beside a feedlot where this takes place. Wildlife moves in and out through farms. I take the Minister's point that in some circumstances, these animals are permanently housed. However, farmers tell me that is often not the case and that the animals are often grazing.

They have serious concerns in this regard. I welcome the review that is taking place and I would suggest that that review needs to focus on that particular issue and recognise that the whole farming sector will be negatively affected if this continues to happen into the future. Everything that can be done should be done to eradicate TB. How many years are we working now on this process and we seem to be getting no closer to the full eradication of TB? It is one of the big issues for Irish livestock farming out there and we do not seem to be able to get to grips with it. This particular aspect needs to be dealt with in a very firm way.

That concludes questions to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. We move on to Leaders' Questions under Standing Order 29. I welcome the Tánaiste.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.