Bovine TB, remains a significant issue for Irish farmers with 3,874 herds restricted in 2018. 10,785 farmers experienced a TB restriction in 2000. This represents a 65% decrease in the number of herds restricted in 2000, highlighting the significant success of the TB Programme. While this historically low level of TB is very much to be welcomed, research work done in UCD tells us that without additional measures, the estimated timeline for eradication is 60 to 90 years.
The actions my Department takes when TB is found include restricting the herd and removing all reactor animals. Department officials conduct an epidemiological investigation as to the specific causes of the breakdown. Each herd must have two clear tests and gamma interferon testing is also used where deemed appropriate. Forward and backward trace tests as well as contiguous testing are all tools utilised to contain and stop the spread of the disease.
Regarding the risk posed by bovine TB, my Department provides advice to farmers through public meetings and online resources which are available on the bovine TB section of the Department’s website on how to reduce the risk to their cattle.
The impacts of TB on a farmer are severe, causing financial hardship and emotional stress. This is why it is so important to reduce the numbers of farmers affected and to move to eradicate this disease. For that reason, I directed my officials to establish the TB Stakeholder Forum last year, so that all stakeholders can have a voice in discussing which policy options should be chosen to reduce disease levels and eradicate bovine TB from Ireland.
The Forum has been tasked with agreeing measures that can further address disease transmission with the objective of eradication by 2030 and I look forward to receiving a report from the Forum in the coming months.