UFU position on TB eradication – part 5

Saturday, 10 March, 2018

The UFU has submitted its response to DAERA’s consultation on implementing some of the recommendations from the TB Strategic Partnership group. The consultation covered six main areas – governance, tools and processes, wildlife, preventing disease (herd health management), finance and funding, and research.

Last week we summarised our position on tools and processes and in this final installment we cover preventing disease.

The answers to the questions have been shortened to fit UFU Watch. The consultation and answers in full are available at www.ufuni.org

Do you agree that Statutory Improvement Notices should be used where it is shown that good herd health management is not being applied and is creating a risk to other neighbouring herds despite advice being provided? Yes. The UFU membership does believe there are instances where a statutory improvement notice would be beneficial to improve bio-containment of TB on a breakdown farm. However, our membership is concerned of the possibility that department veterinary officers may be overzealous in how frequently they are issued. In order to address this concern, our committees have suggested that statutory improvement notices should only be issued as a last resort and once they have been requested from a local disease response team. As such, industry can be involved in policing itself and DAERA staff cannot be accused of being overzealous. A true partnership approach, thereby giving the DRTs and local farmers some powers to be more actively involved in local TB control. Our membership can be supportive of such a bottom up and collaborative approach to statutory improvement notices where an individual farmer is considered to be reckless and endangering other local businesses. We are not supportive of a top down DAERA led approach.

Do you agree that herd-keepers should be proactively encouraged to improve herd health management and take responsibility for herd health management on individual holdings? Yes. The UFU will always advocate for improved herd health management where it can be shown to improve on-farm profitability.

Do you agree that the farming industry should lead in the adoption of an ‘informed purchasing’ approach for farmers bringing in stock to their farms? Yes. The UFU is supportive of additional information being made available to enable farmers to make an informed purchasing decision. To this end, our committees have requested that it be made compulsory for marts to display the vendor’s name on mart screens so purchasers can make an informed decision of who they are buying animals from at the time of sale as opposed to only finding out once the animal has moved between the herds. This is something that our committees have been requesting over the last six months as there is a desire for improved transparency and traceability at the time of purchase in order to mitigate risks when buying stock. It is the opinion of our membership that the only person with something to gain from anonymity is someone with something to hide. Producers that are proud of the stock they are selling should have nothing to fear from their name being displayed alongside their stock.

Do you agree that segregation notices should be introduced to protect those herds that are at risk of disease spread from high-risk groups within bTB breakdown herds? No. During the process of this consultation, our committees discussed this proposal at great length. Whilst acknowledging the benefit of improved bio-containment for the around 90% of OTF herds, the committees were extremely concerned by the wording of the most recent draft of the proposed segregation notices. All committees agreed that in their current design, the proposed segregation notices would be completely unworkable for the 10% of OTW/OTS herds. As such, the committees were opposed to the introduction of segregation notices in the current proposed format at current disease levels. Flipping this argument, committees did see benefit in the principle of segregation notices, and as the wording/sanctions of the current notice at current disease levels is what is resulting in resistance, this therefore means that membership is in favour if the segregation notices can be made more practical at current disease levels and tightened as disease levels fall so the impact on industry is not so marked. As such, we propose to seek to work with DAERA on the wording of the segregation notices to find a practical solution that confers some disease mitigation benefits to OTF herds, whilst not making it impossible to farm for OTS/OTW herds. We acknowledge that whilst this may not eliminate all risks segregation notices seek to address, we would prefer to use this tool to minimise the risks we can whilst not making farming completely unworkable for those farmers who have a segregation notice imposed upon them.

Do you agree with the Department’s assessment that, given the high levels of bTB within Northern Ireland, it is not currently feasible to introduce herd classification and purchasing based on herd bTB history? Yes. It is the opinion of the UFU that given the current high levels of bTB in Northern Ireland that the creation of such a herd classification system would create intolerable trading conditions for farmers within Northern Ireland. Furthermore, we question how such a system could be practically implemented at markets to separate stock of different classification. Additionally, we question the benefit of the proposed information, for example the classification system gives no information about the severity of the previous breakdown. It tells nothing about whether the farmer lost 1 animal at the last breakdown or 100. As such, the UFU is not in favour of a herd classification system at this stage.

Do you agree with the Department’s assessment that industry, with support, should proactively encourage farmers to select bTB resistance in the selection of breeding material? Yes.

Do you agree that industry should have a lead role to play ensuring that the legislative requirement, to clean and disinfect vehicles each time they are used to transport animals, is met? Yes. The UFU is supportive of industry playing a key role in encouraging farmers to meet practically sensible and economically viable cleansing and disinfecting of vehicles to reduce the risk of TB spread.