Urgent need for new TB policy measures

UFU deputy president David Brown on his farm in Fermanagh. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
UFU deputy president David Brown on his farm in Fermanagh. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says the minor decline in TB incidence is a small positive for the industry but is of little comfort to farmers as TB continues to run rampant in the countryside.

To achieve greater success, the UFU says a holistic and robust approach that addresses TB in wildlife alongside cattle, needs to be implemented.

The comments were made following the publication of DAERA’s TB Annual Report 2018 which showed a 3.9 per cent reduction in skin reactors, a 5.4 per cent fall in TB reactor herds, and the number of herds under restriction at the end of December 2018 was also down 3.5 per cent.

UFU deputy president, David Brown said: “Any decline in TB figures is a step forward but these results show we are only skimming the surface.

“So much more can and needs to be done to eradicate the disease in Northern Ireland but with no Executive, the progress of our industry is suffering.

“New policy measures to address TB cannot be implemented without a ministerial directive. We urgently need a minister and politicians in place to make these decisions.

“Their absence has brought the development of the agriculture industry to an absolute standstill and is putting the livelihoods of our farmers at risk.”

The report also revealed that 16.5 per cent of badgers submitted as part of the Road Traffic Accident survey, were positive for TB.

“The UFU has long held the position that in order to eradicate TB, there must be meaningful action to control the disease in wildlife in a way that is evidence based and cost effective.

“The data in DAERA’s report shows there is a high risk of badgers spreading bovine TB, stressing the need for new policy measures that include biosecurity and wildlife.

“It is only by addressing this disease wherever it resides, that we can move closer to our goal of eradication while protecting cattle across NI.

“Until such changes have been initiated, our farmers are being left to try and prevent the disease from infecting their herds by upholding a policy that is not capable of delivering eradication as it fails to address all sources of infection,” said Mr Brown.