Minister outlines proposals to eradicate bTB

New arrangements for compensation to farmers, steps to tackle TB in wildlife, the testing of non-bovines for bTB, and the increased use of the interferon gamma blood test in cattle will all be consulted upon as part of a new long-term strategy to eradicate bovine TB (bTB) from Northern Ireland, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots announced today.

Launching a consultation document at CAFRE’s Greenmount campus on the Department’s proposed implementation and next steps of a bTB Eradication Strategy for NI, Minister Poots said: “I recognise the challenges that face all of us due to the current high TB incidence. It is the 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.

“The proposals outlined in the consultation document are based on the experience and evidence from other jurisdictions; and on solid scientific research. I want to hear the views of all our stakeholders. I will then consider the responses and weigh those up against the evidence and information available, only then will I make a final decision on the way forward.

“To eradicate TB, all factors which contribute to the spread and maintenance of the disease in the environment must be addressed through a holistic approach. I know that wildlife, and badgers in particular, are a significant factor in the maintenance of bTB in cattle. In the consultation document, therefore, I am proposing a wildlife intervention strategy to address this. It is essential that the overall bTB infection load in badgers is reduced, but once this has been achieved it is my intention to move as quickly as possible to a vaccination-only approach. There is an urgent need to take action to ensure we realise the potential of both a healthy cattle and wildlife population in Northern Ireland.

“The annual cost of the TB programme is around £36-£40million, almost half of which is paid in compensation for infected cattle. This is simply not sustainable. We cannot continue to use the same strategy yielding poor results for the taxpayer, industry and animal disease. Therefore, I am also proposing changes to the level and rates on which compensation is paid and will seek views on this.

“I wish to introduce further enhancements to the existing TB Programme such as the testing of non-bovines and the criteria on which interferon gamma testing would 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.

“While DAERA has already taken a number of measures to address the issue, 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. This is a Strategy not just for today but for the young farmers of tomorrow, many of whom train here at Greenmount Campus. The measures proposed in the consultation will underpin the great ability of our wonderful farming and processing industry to trade.

“Importantly, this Strategy and the actions contained within it, will be subject to regular review and assessment, and will adapt to ensure that we ultimately reach a position where limited intervention by government is needed and eradication becomes a reality for Northern Ireland.”

The consultation will be open from the 16 July until 10 September 2021. The Consultation documents can be accessed on the DAERA web site

Notes to Editors:

1. Photo captions:

  • IMG_001: Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA is pictured with Sean Hogan, Chair of the TB Eradication Partnership (TBEP), at CAFRE's Greenmount Campus to launch a consultation document on proposed implementation and next steps of a bTB Eradication Strategy for NI.
  • IMG_002: Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA is pictured at CAFRE's Greenmount Campus to launch a consultation document on proposed implementation and next steps of a bTB Eradication Strategy for NI.
  • IMG_003: Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA (centre) is pictured with members of the TB Eradication Partnership (TBEP) at CAFRE's Greenmount Campus as he launched a consultation document on proposed implementation and next steps of a bTB Eradication Strategy for NI. Pictured (left-right) are; Sean Hogan, Chair of TBEP, Seamus O’Kane, TBEP, Minister Edwin Poots MLA, Adrian Patterson, TBEP, Sam Strain, TBEP, David Rea, TBEP and Michael Meharg, TBEP.

2. The consultation is seeking views outlined in the discussion paper on options for wildlife intervention and changes to the arrangements for compensation paid for bTB infected cattle.

3. In order that all aspects of bovine TB are tackled together, the Department proposes that intervention should involve a combined approach which would see actions put in place to address the disease in wildlife alongside improved cattle measures.

4. All costs relating to the bTB Programme and compensation are currently covered through public funding. The bTB Programme, including compensation payments, has cost around £40 million in each of the last three years. In Northern Ireland, compensation is currently paid to herd-keepers at 100% of an animal’s full market value with no fixed upper limit. The Department is proposing changes to the current compensation system which would provide an opportunity to strike a more appropriate balance between ensuring reasonable compensation for farmers and protecting the interests of taxpayers.

5. The consultation period will run from 16 July 2021 to 10 September 2021. Comments can be made on Citizens Space

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