There are no plans to establish an all-island system of identifying cases of bovine tuberculosis (TB) and Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD), according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

But Minister Charlie McConalogue said the science behind “surveillance, diagnosis and testing capabilities” are similar and that there are significant elements of cross-border collaboration on animal health matters.

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture, Claire Kerrane, had questioned the minister on whether “consideration” had been given to establishing an all-island system of identifying cases of bTB and BVD.

Deputy Kerrane also asked the minister what efforts had been made in relation to this with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland.

TB Statistics

According to latest statistics from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) the level of bovine TB has been rising since 2018.

The department has said that the overall steady increase in herd incidence since then highlights the continued need for urgent action by all stakeholders.

DAFM also stated that the total number of reactors removed in the last 12 months to the end of quarter three 2023 has risen to 25,916 from 21,183.

Herd incidence has increased to 4.73% from 4.12% during the same period.

Last year scientists from Queen’s University’s Institute for Global Food Security, the UK’s Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and University College Dublin – supported by DAFM – launched an all-island project on TB to  understand the immunology of TB and the role that nutrition and Vitamin D might play.

According to Queen’s University it is estimated that TB infected herds have a 30-40% chance of a “repeat breakdown” within three years due to a relapse of infection on farms on both sides of the border.

Disease surveillance

Minister McConalogue told Deputy Kerrane that an All-Island Scanning Surveillance Delivery Forum (AISF) has been established and that All-Island Animal Disease Surveillance Reports are also produced .

“Good collaboration continues between my department and DAERA on animal health surveillance, laboratory supports and exotic disease control preparations and support.

“In relation to TB bi-annual meetings are held at official level between my department and DAERA.

“These meetings focus on co-operation on strategic, operational and research aspects of TB eradication programmes, including diagnostic testing, wildlife risk, and policy development,” the minister added.