Ensuring farmed animals are free from disease is clearly important for animal welfare reasons. Additionally, failure to maintain disease-free status has the potential to impact on the success of the agri-food industry and, therefore, the economy.
Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is a chronic, infectious cattle disease. It is difficult to clinically diagnose bTB and, because it is highly infectious, tough to eradicate. Typically infections are spread within herds, through contact with infected wildlife, following cattle movements between herds or from neighbouring farms.
Scotland is the only part of the United Kingdom to have achieved ‘Official Tuberculosis Free’ status.
In 2016-17, the Northern Ireland bTB programme cost the taxpayer £32.8 million. The Department estimates that the annual cumulative cost to farmers is approximately £10 million (covering costs such as those incurred introducing, and maintaining, improved biosecurity measures, staff time to facilitate testing and losses incurred from reduced milk production).
Almost 60 years after the introduction of the first bTB eradication programme in Northern Ireland, incidence of the disease is high and is rising. bTB prevalence rates in Northern Ireland are higher than the average rates in any other country within the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
We last reported on this area in 2009.
We intend to publish our report in September 2018.