Waterford Fine Gael Senator John Cummins expressed serious concern about the rise of Bovine TB outbreaks in West Waterford with Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Martin Heydon TD during a commencement debate in Seanad Eireann today (11th November 2021).
Senator Cummins complimented Waterford IFA members for bringing the matter to his attention during an engagement he held with Minister Simon Coveney in Dungarvan recently. “Members felt there was a strong corelation between vacancies in the regional veterinary office that is responsible for the administration and delivery of the TB eradication programme and increases in bovine TB outbreaks within the West Waterford, North Cork area”.
Senator Cummins said “The impact of rising TB outbreaks is far reaching. The disease causes untold hardship for farmers and farm families in rural Ireland whose herds have to be culled and while your department operates a very good TB compensation scheme, it doesn’t compensate for the distress and fear which is widespread amongst the communities which I represent due to rising cases”.
Responding to Senator Cummins, Minister Heydon said “In 2020 herd incidence breached 4% for the first time since 2012 and reactor numbers exceeded 20,000 – the highest number since 2009. On a year to date basis, as of the 7th November, national herd incidence stands at 4.18%, Waterford herd incidence rate at 5.05% and Cork North herd incidence rate stands at 8.34%”.
“Unfortunately due to retirements, promotions and transfers, vacancies can arise within Regional Veterinary offices from time to time. I have been made aware of the vacant positions and I recognise the urgency in filling these posts. As of November 2021, nationally the number of vacancies within the RVO’s is 5 veterinary vacancies, 17 technical vacancies and 12 administrative vacancies. Within the Waterford RVO there is no veterinary vacancies, 3 technical vacancies and no administrative vacancies. Within the Cork North RVO there are no veterinary vacancies, 3 technical vacancies and 1 clerical officer vacancy”.
“As part of our on-going commitment to eradicating this disease Minister McConalouge has sanctioned an additional €1 million in funding for the wildlife programme which is an integral element of the overall programme. It is imperative that we all work together to tackle this problem and protect farmers from what is a significant financial and emotional burden”
Expressing alarm Senator Cummins said “the rising figures are very concerning. While the specific cause of each TB outbreak varies, it is a well-established fact that badgers play a central role in spreading TB to cattle in Ireland. So, in order to eradicate bovine TB we have to address the risk they pose through vaccination and removal. However, the success of the programme is determined by the staff that are available within the RVO’s that deal with the TB eradication programme”.
He concluded by saying “Farmers will work with you and your department but they have to have confidence that the RVO’s are fully staffed to assist them in tackling this very serious problem and I would ask that these vacancies are filled without delay”.