A risk-based approach where herds are restricted for up to eight years, which has been successful in Australia, could be the answer to eradicating TB in Ireland, according to a UCD researcher.
Professor Simon More of the UCD Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture that the last case of TB in bovines in Australia was recorded in 2002 and this was due to its stringent de-restriction policy of up to eight years compared to Ireland’s four month policy.
“Data indicates that there were 1.3m movement events in 2016 in Ireland and the distance travelled was enormous. We have this ongoing recycling of infection where we are not clearing all infection at the point of de-restriction,” said Professor More.
“For a herd here to move from de-restriction is four months and Australia’s is eight years, there are huge differences. With a risk based approach herds move progressively from high risk to low risk and gives the opportunity for us in time to gain increasing confidence that they are free.
Dr More pointed out that the restricted herds could still trade with various herds but restrictions such as selling cattle from a risky state to a non risky state were put in place.
Dr More added that a risk based approach would be the only way to successfully eradicate the disease and said that it will be a “huge ask” for Ireland will be TB free by 2030.
“Prior to badger vaccinations we did not have enough tools to eradicate TB, it was a control programme. We did not have a full toolbox of what was required but even with the badger vaccination in place, the current strategy won’t be enough. Introducing a risk based movement system is the only way we can go.”
Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill warned that the introduction of risk based controls would lead to further costs for farmers who would have to “carry the can”.
“We need to be sure in eradicating TB that we don’t eradicate the farmer. Farmers have been paying for TB for years. The Department putting greater controls will bring extra costs to the system and it will be farmers left carrying the can,” he said.
“If herds are at risk for up to 10 years that would be a huge black mark and would discriminate against herds and isn’t practical.”
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