Written Answers. - Bovine Disease Controls.

Michael Bell

Question:

71 Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the plans, if any, he has to review the disease eradication programme with a view to making it less expensive and more efficient and cost effective generally for farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5040/00]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

90 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the number of bovine TB reactors in 1999; whether the levels of bovine TB are satisfactory; and the plans, if any, he has to either eradicate the disease from the national herd or to reduce the incidence considerably. [5032/00]

Jack Wall

Question:

106 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if he has responded to an increase in the instances of bovine TB among cattle herds through the provision of additional veterinary staff, particularly in the north-east; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5041/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71, 90 and 106 together.

The total number of TB reactor animals removed to slaughter in 1999 was 44,900. The incidence of the disease increased significantly in 1998 and 1999 over previous years, and the current levels are not acceptable. The increase referred to occurred across the whole country, and was matched by similar increases in Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom. Veterinary experts here and elsewhere have not been able to establish the precise reasons for the increase in the disease incidence. Among the factors considered to be involved are the cyclical nature of the disease, higher cattle numbers, higher stocking density, poor weather conditions which may have made cattle more susceptible to the disease, fraud, and infected wildlife.

In the context of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, it has been agreed by all parties that measures will be adopted with the objective of reducing current levels of TB by 50% within the next four years. These measures will be finalised with the farming and veterinary bodies in the context of the animal health forum.