Calls for removal of ‘inconclusive test’ animals to halt rise of TB

More than 7,000 herds are under some level of animal movement restrictions as a result of the increasing incidence of TB.

he ICMSA said figures released to the association by the Department of Agriculture confirmed that the number of TB restricted herds was continuing to climb.

The farm body claimed that a more proactive approach on the removal of animals with inconclusive TB test results, as well as action on infections from wildlife, was urgently required to tackle the escalating problem.

ICMSA deputy president Lorcan McCabe said over 70pc of animals that were initially identified as inconclusive for TB were later found to be positive when blood-tested.

He said 1,800 to 2,000 such animals were continually being identified by the TB testing regime, but they were often left in herds for up to a year until they eventually tested positive.

The early removal of animals that initially test inconclusive for TB, or are doubtful, will have to be considered if progress on eradicating the disease is to be made, Mr McCabe argued.

“A voluntary programme to encourage farmers to remove ‘inconclusives’ at an early stage should be introduced,” he said.

“This probably would require additional resources from the government initially, but by removing TB sources at an early stage, there would be a dividend in terms of reduced TB levels in future years.”

A recent finding by the Scientific Working Group of the TB Forum that deer were a likely contributor to the high incidence of the disease in Wicklow, has prompted calls from the IFA for stricter wildlife controls in some areas.

Pat Farrell of IFA said the clear message from the report was that more needed to be done on wildlife, particularly deer and badgers.

“We must prioritise an enhanced wildlife control programme that includes deer and badger density reduction around TB outbreaks; preventative measures for wildlife in advance of major infrastructural works; and the resources to implement the programme effectively in every county,” he said.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue recently admitted in the Dáil that the incidence of TB had increased continually since 2016. While the ‘rolling herd incidence’ was 3.92pc in May 2020, it had reached 4.27pc by May this year.

The rolling average number of reactors also increased in the same period, rising from 18,813 animals in May 2020 to 21,926 last month.

More blood-testing, and stricter rules around inconclusive animals, have contributed to the higher recorded incidence of TB over recent years, industry sources claimed.

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