History of Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) in Northern Ireland

This page provide a brief history of Bovine Tuberculosis in Northern Ireland from 1949.

Bovine Tuberculosis in 1949

The voluntary Tuberculosis (Attested Herd) Scheme is launched in NI. This was designed to encourage the establishment of cattle herds officially certified as being free from tuberculosis.

In 1956, 1209 herds were registered.  Lists of attested herds were published.

In 1958 a decision was made to end the voluntary Attested Herds Scheme and declare eradication areas where compulsory tests would be carried out. A transitional period was established from April to August 1959. This resulted in a great increase in voluntary attestation and, by April 1959, more than 50% of NI herds were attested or supervised. Areas of NI were in turn declared as areas of compulsory eradication. Antrim and Londonderry were scheduled as eradication areas on 1 September 1959. Down, Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone were scheduled as eradication areas on 1 January 1960.

By March 1960, 88% of cattle in Northern Ireland were attested and, on 25 November 1960, NI was declared an Attested Area.

Since the introduction of compulsory testing in 1959, bovine tuberculosis has been reduced to, and maintained at, a much lower level, but not eradicated. Animal incidence rates have fluctuated between 0.4% and 1.0%.

The period of the late 1990s saw, as a trend, a steady increase in herd incidence, to a peak in 2002/2003 of some 10% (N.B. this was after the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in 2001 when on-farm testing was suspended for 6 months followed by a further period when the considerable backlog of testing had to be cleared).

Since 2004 there was a steady trend in reducing herd incidence until 2007. Since then the trend has remained reasonably level until late 2011, when TB herd incidence was reduced to 4.99%. Since then there was a sharp and largely unexplained rise in incidence to peak at 7.46% in late 2012 before starting to decline again.

More useful links

  • TB Statistics
  • TB Breakdown Maps
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