What is Bovine Tuberculosis?
Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is a chronic disease in animals caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium bovis (M.Bovis), which is closely related to the main bacterium that causes TB in humans. Although cattle are the main hosts of M.Bovis, the disease has been reported in many other farmed and wild animals.
The disease is contagious and spread mainly by contact with infected animals. The most common route of transmission is via the respiratory system, where a previously healthy animal becomes infected through inhaling droplets expelled from the lungs of another infected animal. Drinking unpasteurised milk from infected cows can also lead to infection in calves and humans.
Diagnosis of bTB is extremely challenging. There is currently no single test that will identify all infected animals.
Further information about bTB can be found by using the link below:
Current control programme
While TB in humans is being tackled through a vaccination programme there is currently no vaccine approved for use in cattle. In Northern Ireland the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) delivers the bTB EU approved Eradication Programme and develops the policy behind it. The focus of the programme has been to remove the disease by:
- identifying infected cattle at the earliest stage
- removing carriers
- reducing risk of further spread through restriction of movement
- improving farm management
Further information about the current programme can be found at the link below:
The Tuberculosis Strategic Partnership Group (TBSPG) was established in 2014 as a joint Government / industry partnership to develop a long-term strategy to eradicate bTB from the cattle population in Northern Ireland. There are five independent members of the Group and meetings were also attended by two senior government officials as ex-officio members. The role of the TBSPG was to provide the DAERA Minister with a Strategy and an Implementation Plan to effect a progressive and sustained reduction in both the levels of disease and the cost of the bTB eradication programme; improve detection of disease; encourage better biosecurity; reduce disease risks throughout the cattle industry; and find cost-effective ways to eradicate the disease.
Further information about the TBSPG, the Interim report and public consultations that were carried out can be found at the link below:
- TB Strategic Partnership Group
- Summary of responses on the consultation to eradicate bovine TB in Northern Ireland
Launch of the Strategy
The TBSPG launched their bTB Eradication Strategy on the 15th December 2016 and is available below. It includes a series of recommendations developed by the Group that they feel, if implemented, would lead to the eradication of the disease in the future.
The TBSPG have formally presented their Strategy to the Minister, Michelle McIlveen MLA, who will now take time to consider the recommendations and decide how she wants to proceed. She will take account of wider issues including the financial implications of the recommendations. It is likely that she will undertake a public consultation on her proposed approach in early 2017.
The Strategy is broken down into seven thematic areas:
- Culture and Communication
- Tools and Processes
- Herd health Management
It also contains an Implementation Plan indicating who would be responsible for taking the recommendations forward and the proposed timeframe for implementation.
Independent Analysis of Groups’ proposed recommendations can be found below. A preliminary list of evidence considered by the TB Strategic Partnership Group in the formulation of its bTB Eradication Strategy for NI is also available as well as the Interim report of the TBSPG and the Summary of Consultation responses.