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Ray Doyle, Livestock Services Executive

“It’s essential to have specifically accurate regional data available on the incidence of TB reactors to ensure their timely removal,”  ICOS Livestock Services Executive, Ray Doyle told the Farmers Charter Meeting in Portlaoise today.

At the meeting, Doyle asked representatives of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for figures regarding the removal times for TB reactor animals. The Department provided figures indicating that 56% of positive reactors are removed within 0-5 days; 35% in 6-10 days; 5% in 11-15 days; 2% in 16-20 days and 2% in more than 21 days.

“While these figures seem impressive at a national level they are averages only and significant variations could exist regionally. We need to have accurate regional data so that we can use this to target and improve areas where there may be significantly longer removal times. It’s imperative that TB positive animals are removed immediately to ensure maximum thoroughness in preventing the further spread of Bovine TB.

“Rapid action across all regions and a more concerted approach by everyone in the chain of reaction will provide a quick win for the Department in relation to its goals for TB eradication. The Department must also be complimented for its commitment, comprehensive approach and investments made to date,” said Ray Doyle.

Ireland’s Bovine TB (bTB) Eradication Scheme started in 1954. At that point, approximately 80% of cattle herds in Ireland (herd prevalence1) and 17% of the approximately 4.5m cattle (22% of cows) in the country were infected with bTB.   In 2017, 4.89% of cattle herds in Ireland (herd prevalence) were infected with bTB.  (Information from DAFM 2018 – Ireland’s Bovine TB Eradication Programme).

In 2017, the bTB Eradication Programme cost €84 million. The Exchequer contributed a net €42 million, EU co-funding provided €10 million and the remaining €32 million was paid by farmers through the cost of  the annual herd bTB test and disease levies. While this expenditure represents a significant investment in animal health, it also represents a drain on scarce financial resources that could be better directed at initiatives that grow the broader agri-food sector. Bovine TB levels and the complexity of the Eradication Programme have evolved since the 1950s. However, if we use expenditure in 2017 as a ‘standard’ year, total expenditure on the bTB Programme in today’s prices would amount to over €5.5 billion. Minister Creed has publicly stated the ambition to eradicate bTB by 2030 and by this time another €1 billion will have been spent if current trends continue.  (Information from DAFM 2018 – Ireland’s Bovine TB Eradication Programme).