Ireland’s bovineTB Programme has had many successes since its inception in 1954 when approximately 80% of cattle herds and 22% of cows in the country were infected with bTB. In the year 2000, nearly 11,000 herds endured a bTB restriction while 40,000 reactors were identified. Now, Ireland has approximately 3,800 herds experiencing bTB outbreaks each year, with around 17,000 cattle declared reactors annually.
This period of rapid improvement in bTB incidence coincided with the implementation of a modern IT disease-management system and the implementation of a wildlife programme. While bTB levels overall are historically lower than ever, since 2016 there has been a gradual increase in disease trends. This highlight the need for the Programme to continuously adapt as factors influencing disease transmission change.
My Department’s TB eradication Programme aims to drive bovine TB disease levels down towards the target of eradication by 2030. It is focussed on measures which will further reduce transmission of bTB. In the coming weeks, I will be launching a renewed strategy underpinned by the principle of supporting and empowering farmers to reduce the bTB risk to their cattle by making informed choices to protect their herd and their neighbour’s herds. Equally, there is a particular focus on assisting herdowners whose herds are affected with bTB and to clear their herds of infection.
Stakeholders have recognised that further preventative measures are required if the ambition of eradication by 2030 is to be achieved. Steadily reducing the risk of disease transmission is the best way in which support can be provided to all Irish farmers – those whose herds are impacted by bTB and those whose herds are clear and who wish to remain free of the disease. The recommendations made by the bTB Stakeholders Forum have informed the development of this strategy, and stakeholder involvement and leadership will continue to be critical to successfully eradicating bTB.
The risks associated with each potential transmission channel will be reduced through a series of coordinated measures, which will be applied in addition to the existing programme and in full compliance with the EU requirements for bTB eradication.
While the strategy is still be being finalised, some of it central themes will be:
1. Reducing the spread of bTB via cattle to cattle transmission.
2. Reduce transmission at the cattle/wildlife interface
3. Improving farmers' understanding of risk with clearer communication
4. Greater stakeholder leadership, ownership and involvement; and
5. Continually improve programme effectiveness through review and amendments
In addition where higher levels of bTB are occurring in certain areas, my Department will put in place High Intensity TB action plans to address the risks and reduce disease spread. My Department has already implemented a High Intensity TB plan in the Cavan/Monaghan area and a similar plan is currently being rolled out in certain DEDs in County Clare.