Bovine TB rates in Northern Ireland have dropped for the first time in more than a year.

The disease hit its worst level since 2003 in November. But, official figures seen by AgriLand - which are yet to be made publicly available - reveal herd incidence rates have dropped for two consecutive months.

12-month average

In November, the latest month for which figures are publicly available, the 12-month moving average hit 9.73%.

Chief veterinary office Robert Huey confirmed that December and January saw a slight drop in levels of the disease detected.

In January, TB rates dropped slightly to 9.61%. It slipped slightly again to 9.41% the following month.

However, Huey added that a third consecutive monthly drop was required for the decrease to be considered a trend scientifically.

Over the same period, animal incidence rates of the disease also dropped.

Major decisions

Speaking at the Agri-food and Bioscience Institute (AFBI) 2018 Scientific Outlook conference on Tuesday, Huey said he was "in a bind" as he talked of how the disease had reached the point where major decisions on strategy were urgently needed.

However, he said that these needed to be made by elected representatives rather than civil servants.

Huey told the crowd he had received more than 200 replies in response to his TB consultation and added that he was currently in the process of putting a report together based on this.