The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has urged the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to take advantage of control measures for bovine tuberculosis (bTB). The union has stated that, for the first time in history, the farming industry is “able to utilise some of the TB control measures that DAERA has failed to capitalise on in the past”. The president of the UFU, David Brown, has stated that the policy pursued for the last 60-70 years to eradicate the disease has been a failure, as the latest TB figures showed another rise in TB incidence. Brown has suggested that modelling the approach in England, which has proven to be extremely effective in reducing the disease burden in all species, as well as increasing biodiversity wildlife intervention, will form a key part of the revised strategy for Northern Ireland.
Brown has stated that the most effective way to reduce the disease reservoir is through a targeted proactive intervention programme in hotspot areas, that is selected using stringent criteria. He has suggested that once infection levels are reduced, this strategy can be replaced over time by a vaccination phase in wildlife which would only be effective in uninfected animals. The UFU has long lobbied for wildlife intervention and its members want “effective action to be taken urgently” to tackle bTB in all of its hosts. Brown has stated that the UFU members continue to be frustrated that despite suffering severe emotional and financial losses for generations, the disease incidence continues to climb to record levels.
The UFU has suggested that when TB is detected in a herd, farmers are already left to bear significant costs due to the loss of production because of DAERA’s inability to eradicate the disease. Brown has stated that moving forward, farmers will be paying for the implementation of farmer education, support and wildlife intervention within the revised TB strategy through the levy. He has suggested that DAERA cannot expect them to finance it any further when their previous TB policy created the need for a new, effective approach.
Bovine tuberculosis is a chronic bacterial disease that affects cattle and other animals. It is a serious problem in many countries, including the UK, where it is estimated to cost taxpayers around £100m per year. The disease can be transmitted from infected animals to humans through the consumption of unpasteurised milk or meat. Symptoms of bTB in cattle include coughing, weight loss, and a reduction in milk production. The disease can also cause lesions in the lungs and other organs.
The spread of bTB is a major concern for farmers, who can lose entire herds if the disease is not detected early enough. In Northern Ireland, the incidence of bTB has been rising steadily over the past few years, with over 10,000 cattle slaughtered in 2019 due to the disease. The UFU has suggested that DAERA needs to take more proactive measures to control the spread of the disease, including wildlife intervention and vaccination programmes.
The UFU has also called for greater support for farmers affected by bTB. Brown has suggested that farmers need more education and support to help them manage the disease and reduce the risk of transmission. He has also stated that the government needs to provide more financial assistance to farmers who have lost cattle due to bTB. The UFU has suggested that a compensation scheme should be put in place to help farmers cover the costs of testing and slaughtering infected animals.
In conclusion, the UFU has called on DAERA to take more proactive measures to control the spread of bTB in Northern Ireland. The union has suggested that wildlife intervention and vaccination programmes are needed to reduce the disease reservoir, and that farmers need more education and support to help them manage the disease. The UFU has also called for a compensation scheme to be put in place to help farmers cover the costs of testing and slaughtering infected animals.