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It advises me that I should get rid of all my cows’ – suckler and sheep farmer

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IFA national sheep vice-chairman, Kevin Comiskey, is among those angered by TB herd history risk statements issued to farmers.

He farms 17 suckler cows, 90 ewes and 20 hoggets, with his son, Jason, in Fivemilebourne, Co. Leitrim, as profiled here by That’s Farming.  

The nature of their enterprise was altered this year as a TB outbreak caused the duo to adjust their system to finishing bulls.

However, documentation to help farmers “reduce the risk” of bovine TB in their herds is now advising the father-and-son team to cull all their suckler cows.

The individualised reports provide a “simplified” TB herd risk category for farmers, with herd-specific advice on how to reduce risk of TB, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

They said farmers are already provided with information in relation to their TB risk, but this new report presents this in a “very much more user-friendly, detailed and practical form”.

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Cull all suckler cows

“I am here with this letter that I received from the department [containing] useless information regarding [bovine] TB.” he explained in a video.

“The people that compose these letters, do they have any knowledge of what goes through a farmer’s heart when they see a lorry back into their farmyard to take away their animals?”

“It [the TB herd history risk statement] advises me that I should get rid of all my suckler cows in this herd at the moment, cows that are my pride and joy.”

He provided an example of an encounter that he had with a cow, with tag number ending 0142, three years ago.

“There was more intelligence and nature in that animal than there was in the person that composed this letter.”

“If I cull all my cows as they say [the department], the only way I can get back in is by purchasing, which, it states in one of the points, purchasing puts me at risk again.”

“I have built up a herd that I am proud of and meet the 4/5-star requirements for the BDGP. If I cull, I am breaking the terms and conditions of it and other schemes.”

“Farmers, like me, on the ground, know where there is disturbance on the land like forestry clear-fell or new roads being made causes wildlife to disperse and there is always a breakdown.”

“There is a very human aspect to this and I find it very stressful as I have a bond built up with my animals and could guarantee no other person could do what I did with the cow as I explained in the video.”

“It is heart-breaking that they would suggest what they did in that letter.” he concluded.

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