bTB Eradication Strategy launched - Includes additional cattle measures and badger intervention

The Agriculture Minister has launched the new long-term bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) Eradication Strategy for Northern Ireland.

Included within the strategy are additional cattle measures, enhanced biosecurity, the testing of non-bovines and a programme of badger intervention in a limited number of areas.

In the medium term, approximately two years’ time, there will be a review of the compensation to farmers for animals removed under the TB Eradication Programme.

This strategy has been developed in collaboration with the TB Eradication Partnership and following extensive consultation with stakeholders.

Minister Edwin Poots
Minister Edwin Poots
Minister Edwin Poots

Announcing the strategy, Edwin Poots said: “As Agriculture Minister, and someone who has farmed for most of my life, I recognise the challenges that farmers face with TB breakdowns.

“It is a source of significant stress for our farming families and has the potential to inflict serious damage on the wider agri-food industry and its ability to trade on a global scale.

“For too long this disease has had a devastating impact on our farming community.

“Since coming into post as minister, I have made the eradication of bovine TB a top priority and have been determined to take every action possible to achieve this goal.

“My department, and I, have liaised with leaders and stakeholders from across all sectors to ensure He continued: “The proposals outlined in the new strategy are based on the experience and evidence from other jurisdictions and on solid scientific research.

“I have carefully considered the views of all our stakeholders following a public consultation, weighing these up against the evidence and information within a detailed business case.”

Speaking about the details of the Strategy, Mr Poots said: “To eradicate TB, all factors which contribute to the spread and maintenance of the disease in the environment must be addressed in parallel.

“I know that wildlife, particularly badgers, are a significant factor in TB maintenance and spread in the environment.

“I very much appreciate that this is an emotive issue for many, but in order to ensure a healthy cattle population I intend to introduce a programme of badger intervention in a limited number of areas.

“I want to make clear this is not the wholescale removal of badgers across Northern Ireland, nor is it the removal of all badgers in an area.

“It is based on the experience and success of other parts of the UK and in the Republic of Ireland.

“I would hope that we can, in a short number of years, be able to move to a programme of badger vaccination and therefore we will have a healthy cattle and badger population.

“The annual cost of the TB programme is around £36-£40million, almost half of which is paid in compensation for infected cattle.”

Mr Poots said this is “simply not sustainable” and described it as a drain on the public purse.

He added: “I am, however, very aware that the farming industry faces a number of challenges at the moment and into the immediate future.

“Therefore, whilst acknowledging the need for changes to our compensation system, I will not be introducing these at the moment, but have asked my officials to review this in the medium term.

“I am also announcing my department’s intention to introduce further enhancements to the existing TB programme, such as the testing of non-bovines and the criteria on which interferon gamma testing will be made compulsory.

!This will build on the current programme and support industry to work closely with us, playing an active part in getting rid of this disease.

“I want to keep us all focused on moving forward together towards reducing TB levels in the short term and, in the longer term, eradicating this disease from the Northern Ireland herd.

“The measures proposed will underpin the great ability of our wonderful farming and processing industry to trade.

“This is a strategy, not just for today, but for the young farmers of tomorrow, many of whom train here at Greenmount Campus.”

Welcoming the new strategy the Chief Veterinary Officer for Northern Ireland, Robert Huey, restated his commitment to drive forward the eradication of bovine tuberculosis from the cattle population in Northern Ireland.

“A new agreed strategy lays the foundation to enable DAERA and other key stakeholders to deploy a range of additional and enhanced measures to strengthen Northern Ireland’s bTB Eradication Programme and improve its impact,” stated Mr Huey.

“Bovine TB continues to be a major concern for farmers across Northern Ireland and we now have a framework within which everyone with an interest in defeating this diseases can work together to implement the actions outlined in the Strategy, with a clear focus on our shared aim of eradication,” he concluded.