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HomeDairyVIDEO: ‘We could end up losing the whole herd by Christmas again’
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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VIDEO: ‘We could end up losing the whole herd by Christmas again’

TB outbreak on farm

A farmer in Northern Ireland lost his entire herd to TB before Christmas 2020 and fears that the same could happen on his farm again this year.

The Co. Down native has granted the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) permission to capture the “heart-breaking reality and devastation” of the disease outbreak on his enterprise.

The farm group stated that “tackling bTB is essential so that no more farming families have to suffer loss, devastation and heartache shown in the video”.

TB outbreak on farm

The farmer ventured into dairying in 2019, a move that required a “considerable amount of investment”.

“We had no housing facilities or winter accommodation to keep cows. So, we had to build new sheds and a parlour. We got stock from one area. Come early 2020; we started losing a proportion of the cows to TB.”

“Later that year, in 2020, before Christmas time, we lost our whole herd to TB. The time that the cows were going up onto the lorry, they were six weeks off calving.”

“It was very frustrating. It made the mood very depressed around Christmas time. [It was] hard to enjoy Christmas, to be honest.”

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“We turned the Christmas tree lights on. It had to be done just for the wee ones to show a brave face, but then at the back of it, it was quite heart-breaking.”

“After the whole herd went down, a man valued our cows. We got the valuations, and the next day, they went on the lorry. We were producing no milk and had no income for two months. That was not compensated for in the valuation of the cows.”

“We were sitting for two months without any milk coming into the tank with no paycheck. Early spring 2021, we got opened up and got permission to re-stock the dairy herd.”

“We built numbers up to what they were the previous year, but as soon as the cattle went out to grass, we started to go down the same path again.”

“We were losing small numbers of cows in one test, and it just kept increasing in the next test. So, we just seemed to be going back to the same position that we were in the previous year.”

Potentially facing a second wipe-out

“I am afraid that we could end up losing the whole herd by Christmas again. In any business, this is quite extreme to see.”

Can farm healthy wildlife and cattle together

The farmer explained that it is “frustrating” because and livestock is not in contact with any neighbouring herds.

“Our dairy herd is in one group on this farm. I would like to know where the primary source [of infection] is coming from. I think it needs to be dealt with. As farmers, in general, we are getting fed up.”

“Looking forward to the future, I would like to see cattle and wildlife farm together; healthy cattle and healthy wildlife.”

“We need to get on top of TB for both cattle and wildlife. TB needs to be eradicated from all farms.”

The farmer and farm group has urged the public to DAERA’s proposed implementation and next steps of the bTB eradication strategy for Northern Ireland consultation.

“It is critical that farmers and their wider families make their opinion known,” UFU stated.

Further reading on That’s Farming:

  • VIDEO: Empty fields, empty sheds and no cows – Losing an entire herd to TB – see article
  • Opinion: We can eradicate TB once and for all – Read Livestock and Meat Commission for NI (LMC) Chief Executive Ian Stevenson’s views.
  • Geronimo the alpaca: ‘A number of TB-like lesions’ found – Read article

Have you been impacted by a TB outbreak? To share your story, email – [email protected]

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