The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has accused the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine of breaching trust by including a requirement to test for infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) in the new National Beef Welfare Scheme (NBWS). TJ Maher, the IFA’s animal health chairperson, stated that the inclusion of this requirement was made without adequate consultation. Maher emphasized that the IFA has consistently advocated for a collaborative approach among all stakeholders, including the department and Animal Health Ireland (AHI), to address critical issues affecting animal health in Ireland. He expressed disappointment that the concerns of farmers were not taken into account and that the payment for this action, €15 per animal up to 20 animals, is effectively a payment to service providers instead of farmers.
The IFA also criticized AHI for publicly supporting the inclusion of the IBR testing measure, claiming that this support contradicts the views of AHI’s stakeholders, including the IFA and other farm organizations. Maher called AHI’s public commentary welcoming the inclusion of the IBR testing measure deeply disappointing and sought clarity on how AHI arrived at a position that directly contradicts the concerns raised by farmers. The IFA argued that the inclusion of this measure undermines the agreed approach of all stakeholders, including the department, in relation to how non-statutory diseases would be dealt with in the country.
The IFA is now seeking a meeting with AHI to raise the concerns of farmers regarding this issue. Maher stressed that credibility with farmers is vital for the success of all AHI Animal Health programs and that farmers’ concerns must always be taken into account in relation to any animal health initiatives. AHI, on the other hand, stated last week that the inclusion of the testing requirement in the new scheme would be beneficial. Its CEO, Dr. David Graham, highlighted the importance of addressing IBR, which is a widespread disease in Irish beef and dairy herds, as it reduces efficiency of production and negatively impacts economic, environmental, and social sustainability. Dr. Michael Gunn, chair of AHI’s technical working group (TWG) on IBR, supported the testing measure in the scheme as it aligns with the TWG’s recommendations for a strategic approach to IBR control.
In conclusion, the inclusion of the IBR testing requirement in the National Beef Welfare Scheme has sparked controversy, with the IFA claiming that it was done without adequate consultation and breaches trust. The IFA argues that the payment for this action is effectively a payment to service providers instead of farmers. AHI, on the other hand, believes that the testing requirement will be beneficial in addressing IBR, a disease that has a negative impact on the efficiency and sustainability of Irish beef and dairy herds. The IFA is seeking a meeting with AHI to raise farmers’ concerns, emphasizing the importance of taking farmers’ perspectives into account in animal health initiatives.