Farm Ireland

Monday 25 March 2019

TB levels at historically low levels, but progress towards eradication has slowed - Department

Lot 47 Weight 765Kg, DOB18/03/17, Breed LMX. Price 2100. Owner Peter Hynes. Photo Roger Jones.
Lot 47 Weight 765Kg, DOB18/03/17, Breed LMX. Price 2100. Owner Peter Hynes. Photo Roger Jones.
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

New figures from the Department of Agriculture show that while TB is at historically low levels, progress towards eradication appears to have slowed since 2015.

As of December 31, 2018, the national herd incidence for TB stood at 3.51pc, marginally up on 2017. This means that since the beginning of 2018, of all herds tested for TB 3.51pc have experienced a new breakdown, i.e., they have had at least one animal that tested positive for TB.

TB levels overall are at a low level but there has been a relatively high level of TB concentrated in the north-east of Ireland throughout 2018 i.e. Monaghan, Cavan, north-Meath.

The number of herds in Ireland was 112,105 representing a decrease of 1,592 (-1.4pc) relative to 2017.

During 2018, 3,874 herds experienced a restriction. At end-December 2018, there were 2,176 herds restricted. Both of these figures were broadly unchanged from 2017.

Herd incidence in 2018 was 3.51pc. While TB levels remain at historically low levels, herd incidence in 2018 was nonetheless similar to levels in 2014.

The number of reactors identified in 2018 was 17,491. This is the highest number of reactors since 2012. The increased use of Gamma Interferon (GIF) blood testing however has been a significant factor in higher reactor numbers over the past few years. In 2018 GIF testing accounted for over 20pc of reactors.


The herd incidence in Monaghan of 8.91pc and Cork North of 5.66pc (which is significantly higher than the national herd incidence of 3.51pc) are particularly relevant as they have higher cattle densities than other counties and this therefore indicates greater amounts of TB.

Cork North had the highest number of reactors at 2,086, Monaghan had the second highest at 1,677 followed by Tipperary North with 1,296 reactors.

A targeted, TB Control Plan has been in place in Monaghan during 2018 in collaboration with stakeholders. Its focus is to identify and eradicate disease in that area as quickly as possible.

While Wicklow East had the highest herd incidence at 9.51pc (596 reactors), this region has less than 1pc of the national herd.

Donegal and Limerick had the lowest herd incidence at 1.70pc and 1.79pc respectively.

According to the Department, Ireland’s Pathway to Eradication in 2030, the underlying risk is increasing due to the national herd becoming increasingly based on larger dairy farms and access to additional markets are affected by our disease status.

How to reduce TB risk

  1. Buying in – know the TB history of the herd you are buying from
  2. Neighbourhood – have good fences – stockproof and sufficiently wide.
  3. Wildlife – raise troughs, drinkers and fence off setts and latrines; badger proof your feedstores and sheds.
  4. Testing – ensure good facilities and help for testing vet.
  5. Cleansing and Disinfection.
  6. Residual animals – prioritise culling of animals that have been present during a previous breakdown and cull any animals which have ever tested inconclusive in the past.
  7. Good general Biosecurity.

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