Competitive rates needed for TB testing

IFA Animal Health Project Team Chairman John Waters said the rates being charge by some vets for TB testing remain exorbitant.

IFA Animal Health Project Team Chairman John Waters said the rates being charge by some vets for TB testing remain exorbitant.

Based on an IFA national survey of testing charges there is a difference of €319 or 380% in the cost of testing the average herd of 57 animals.

Mr Waters said this huge gap that exists amounts to little more than profiteering by some vets at the expense of farmers.

He said, “farmers are entitled to nominate the vet to carry out their herd tests and it is advisable to price around and agree terms in advance and to notify the Department of Agriculture where the vet is being changed.”

Based on the extensive information in the survey, rates per head for TB testing range from €2 to €5.78 and on the issue of callout charges the range is from free to €310. Mr Waters said herd testing is planned well in advance and there should not be a callout charge applied.

The IFA Chairman said vets are continuing to ignore the investments made by farmers on handling facilities over the years by refusing in general to offer TB testing at an hourly rate. “Where vets are testing for an hourly fee, the rate is €80 to €100, and very often with no callout fee. When this is compared to the average per head rates and the length of time spent testing and reading it represents a 50% saving in testing charges.”

The IFA Chairman said half of the herds in the country this year will not be required to have a Brucellosis test and when this is factored in with the improvement in handling facilities farmers should seriously consider making arrangements to have their herd test charged for on an hourly basis.

Mr Waters said some vets offer to test for farmers at the rates they receive from the Department of Agriculture for reactor retests and while these rates are comparable to the average rate identified in the IFA survey, they remain considerably more expensive than the lowest rates available.

He said vets must offer realistic rates for TB testing or farmers will have no option but to pursue the Competition Authority recommendation to the Department of Agriculture to introduce lay testing for TB in order to provide real competition.