The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA) received almost 5,000 responses on a recent consultation on the proposal to reduce the compensation rate for cattle removed under the bovine tuberculosis (bTB) programme.

DAERA confirmed yesterday (Wednesday, March 20) at an industry stakeholder event, that 4,945 responses were received on the proposals announced by DAERA, on the instruction of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton Harris in January 2024.

The department launched a consultation on the proposal in January, which would reduce bTB compensation on a phased basis to 90% of the bovine animal’s market value in the first year of implementation.

There would then be a further reduction to 75% of the animal’s market value a year later.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says the response from farmers to the DAERA consultation is to be commended.

UFU president David Brown said: “The UFU would like to thank all farmers who took the time to make their voice heard and respond to DAERA’s TB consultation.”

Brown said it was the largest number of responses to date on a TB consultation proposal.

He said the response “sends a strong message to the DAERA minister on our farming families’ feelings on this subject.

“Whilst we will have to await the official publication of the summary of responses, our members who continue to be blighted by bTB on a daily basis, can take some comfort that in a previous consultation in 2021, 94.77% of respondents were opposed to the proposed amendments.

The huge increase in the number of consultees who responded sends a strong message. DAERA can sustainability reduce the cost of the TB programme by tackling the disease, rather than devaluing cattle’s worth after the animals have fallen victim to a disease.

“The UFU remain determined to ensure none of the barbaric proposals come to pass and will continue to exhaust every avenue to safeguard the future of NI’s agri industry.”

In January, Brown, confirmed that the UFU will take legal action against DAERA, should a proposed 25% reduction in bTB reactor valuations become reality.

Farmers For Action (FFA) has supported the commitment of the UFU to legally challenge DAERA.