Under EU Directive 64/432, inconclusive animals that have passed a retest are not required to be slaughtered. Research carried out in Ireland found that such animals were 12 times more likely to be positive for TB at the next test or slaughter compared with their test-negative counterparts. As a result of that research, my Department adopted a policy in 2012 which restricted such animals to the herd for life until slaughter, or allowed them to move to a restricted feedlot from where they would be slaughtered. Such animals cannot be traded on the open market. Allowing these animals to move to a restricted feedlot where, by nature of the official supervisory protocol in place, all animals are slaughtered, they are prevented from circulating with other animals which may be sold on the open market. This means the risk of them causing a new TB breakdown is further reduced.
Under the tuberculosis programme, a feedlot herd is a restricted herd that comprises a non-breeding unit which disposes of all cattle direct for slaughter and fulfils at least one of the following three criteria. First, the cattle are permanently housed and never on pasture. Second, there are no contiguous holdings or lands with cattle, meaning they must not have any neighbour contacts either through cattle being confined exclusively in yards or buildings or, if intending to graze cattle, the land is secured in order that there can be no contact with cattle, for example, surrounded by tillage, residential, industrial or recreational units or impenetrable rivers, roads or walls. Third, the boundaries are walled, double-fenced or equivalent so as to prevent any direct contact with cattle on contiguous lands, premises or holdings. Furthermore, there must be no evidence of in-herd acquisition or spread of TB. Thus, a feedlot herd is a herd that poses minimal risk of infecting other cattle because of effective isolation from other herds.
As part of an ongoing review of the tuberculosis programme, my Department policy on inconclusive TB animals is one of a number of areas currently being evaluated.