TB risk: Restaurant-style ratings for farms?

A Northern Ireland pedigree society has written to the chief veterinary officer asking that a tiered approach is taken towards TB measures, depending on the actions each farmer takes to mitigate the herd’s exposure to the disease.

In a letter seen by AgriLand, Holstein Northern Ireland secretary John Martin suggested that herds could be rated ‘bronze’, ‘silver’ or ‘gold’ – in a similar fashion to the food hygiene ratings given to restaurants.

Writing to the chief vet, Martin said: “There is no point in starting to remove wildlife until we are satisfied that the disease is being addressed in full.”

‘An incentive’

“We are all well aware of food outlets being awarded a food hygiene rating; I have, at previous meetings, suggested that agriculture introduce similar rating systems for farms, markets, processors, etc.

We do not have to follow the same five-star approach; but, we could have a gold, silver and bronze accrediting system.

Martin explained that the ratings would give an incentive to farmers to make their herd the very best it could be in terms of biosecurity.

He also stated that the measures included under the rating system could help tackle other diseases.

Chief vet Robert Huey previously told AgriLand that part of the issue was that farmers often thought their biosecurity was better than in reality.

‘Rewarding best practice’

Martin continued: “It should enable those farms who are doing everything they can to eradicate or protect their business from TB to gain a bonus – by means of a reduced levy – whilst at the same time giving an incentive to those who would otherwise not be as concerned about biosecurity measures.

Considerable discussion should he held on what measures we most want to encourage. Examples of best practice should include:

  • No BVD PIs on farm and keeping herd vaccinations up to date;
  • Regular herd health plans by a private vet – such as the implementation of Johne’s programmes;
  • Breeding farms with a closed herd;
  • Wash and disinfectant bay for slurry spreading contractors;
  • Encourage improved welfare and nutritional standards on farms.

“If we are to see the introduction of a levy, this would be an opportunity to promote best practice; rewarding those who seek to help eradicate the disease,” he concluded.