In recent weeks, Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) members have been raising a wide range of issues surrounding TB testing during the current COVID-19 pandemic, writes Dr Geoff Thompson, UFU policy officer.
The UFU’s animal health and welfare committee has been monitoring the situation closely and is in regular contact with DAERA and Minister Poots on this issue.
Based on the issues raised, the UFU has already secured assurances that farmers will not be forced to complete their TB test where they do not feel safe to do so.
Furthermore, herd keepers will not be referred for cross compliance penalties where TB tests have become overdue because of COVID-19.
Additionally, the UFU has successfully lobbied for DAERA to remove restrictions on animals moving directly to slaughter from herds with overdue TB tests and restrictions on herd to herd moves have been deferred until the TB test becomes 35 days overdue.
Both the UFU and DAERA are keeping these measures under constant review. However, if the situation persists, additional interventions will be required. With that in mind, the UFU has made the following suggestions for DAERA to consider:
- Extend the time before herd restrictions commence to 70 days (and keep under review as the situation evolves).
- Enable partial herd tests to allow smaller groups of cattle to be tested and sold thereby facilitating trade whilst managing risk to TB free herds.
- Enable untested cattle to move directly into TB restricted finishing herds under license without associating the herds.
- Suspend restrictions on herds with overdue tests buying cattle in.
- Extend the age under which calves are exempt from testing thereby enabling more tests to be completed safely. This measure should be applied to calves both in and outside of their natal herd.
- Enable farmers to move their herd test to another veterinary practice in scenarios where the limiting factor within the risk assessment was the veterinary element.
- Amend the TB letters currently being sent to farmers so as not to cause confusion and anxiety. If this letter cannot be easily amended, include a leaflet clarifying the situation.
If members have queries or issues that they do not feel are addressed by the above proposals, please get in contact so we can understand your issue and continue to try to develop solutions.