WTO was top of the agenda when representatives of IFA in County Roscommon met with Sinn Féin representatives last week. The IFA delegation which consisted of County Chairman Bernard Donohue, Development Officer Adrian Leddy and County Livestock Chairperson James Gleeson, met the Sinn Féin representative in Gleeson’s Townhouse, Roscommon. The group was due to meet Michelle Gildernew MLA, the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland. However, Ms. Gildernew, who had attended a number of events in the county earlier in the day, was unable to be present and so the meeting went ahead with Sinn Féin representatives Martin Ferris TD, Cllr. Michael Mulligan and Martin Kenny. Earlier that day Ms. Gildernew had met with an IFA delegation in Ballinamore, where the main issue was bluetongue. She also met with mart managers in Drumshanbo, where a Department of Agriculture regulation which required cattle for export to be cleared by a Department official was discussed. A courtesy call to the Border Midland and Western Regional Assembly in Ballaghaderreen was also included in the day’s events. In Castlerea, Ms. Gildernew met Noel Moran, Manager of Castlerea Mart and Gerry Connellan, Manager of Elphin Mart. Items discussed included WTO and bluetongue and movement of animals across the border. Plans to require marts to have lairage facilities for cattle were discussed and the mart managers pointed out the extra cost that would be involved for marts should this go ahead. Both Michelle Gildernew and Martin Ferris TD, Sinn Féin’s agriculture spokesperson in the Republic, said there was no need for this extra bureaucracy. Following the meeting with mart managers, the Sinn Féin delegation called to Finola Foods in Castlerea. During the meeting with IFA in Roscommon, items on the agenda included WTO and in particular the role of Peter Mandelson and his attitude to tariffs. Mr. Kenny pointed out that farmers are very concerned that the outcome of the WTO will destroy the farming community across Europe because it will give an unfair advantage to non-European food producers who will have access to European markets despite the fact that their produce does not have to meet the strict controls imposed on European farmers. ‘Michelle Gildernew has previously said that she intends to join with Agriculture Ministers in England, Scotland and Wales Orf disease alert Sheep farmers have been warned about the risks of picking up the serious skin disease, orf, from infected sheep. The infection, which is caused by a virus, affects around 30 percent of sheep flocks every year and can be a major problem at lambing time. Maureen Prendergast, veterinary adviser with Schering Plough, warns that the virus can be transmitted to humans through direct contact with infected or seemingly normal sheep. It enters the skin through cuts and abrasions and results in lesions on the hands, arms, face or other exposed skin areas. ‘It is sometimes accompanied by a mild fever that lasts a few days. Most people suffering from orf can be effectively treated with antiseptics and antibiotics but where lesions are large, surgery or other procedures may have to be used,’ said Maureen Prendergast. In sheep, orf is highly infectious and is characterised by lesions on the lips, nose, ears, eyelids and sometimes on the feet. These lesions develop into thick, brown, rapidly growing scabs that bleed easily. Affected sheep are also prone to secondary bacterial infection. ‘As immunity is not passed on through the ewe’s colostrum, new-born lambs are particularly prone to infection’ she said. As there is no specific treatment, Maureen Prendergast says that vaccination is the best method of controlling orf. Lambs can be vaccinated at any time from two days of age. However, as the orf vaccine is ‘live’, Maureen Prendergast stresses that it should only be used on flocks that have already been infected. ‘Also, farmers administering the vaccine should wear protective gloves and wash hands thoroughly afterwards. Also, any cuts or skin abrasions should be treated with disinfectant,’ she advised.