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Agriculture, Food and the Marine | To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the extent to which he and his Department continue to monitor bovine tuberculosis, with particular reference to individual areas that have suffered in this regard in recent times

To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the extent to which he and his Department continue to monitor bovine tuberculosis, with particular reference to individual areas that have suffered in this regard in recent times; if he and his Department have identified any particular issues with might cause sporadic outbreaks; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


Bovine tuberculosis causes significant hardship for farmers and farming families, and I am fully committed to the objectives of the Bovine TB Stakeholder Forum, which aims to reduce and ultimately eradicate this disease in Ireland.

While the incidence of bTB is low relative to historical levels, the number of new restrictions and reactor numbers gradually increased between 2016 and the end of 2020. There were encouraging signs in 2021, as bTB levels were lower than in 2020, with fewer reactors and a lower herd incidence. Herd incidence at end of 2021 was 4.34% compared to 4.38% at end of 2020.

The reasons for increase in disease over the last number of years are multifactorial and often relate to a combination of national and local factors. 

The expansion of the dairy herd since 2015 has played a role in this, since dairy herds, larger herds, fragmented farms, and herds which introduce more cattle are all more at risk of TB breakdown. Wildlife can also be a factor.

The causes of TB outbreaks are multi-factorial, varying from county to county, and even within counties, requiring a range of actions to address the problem.

My Department’s policy Divisions are supported by the 16 Regional Veterinary Offices throughout the country, each of which prioritises bTB management. Within each county, the bTB programme focuses on testing compliance and frequency, isolation of reactors, control and vaccination of wildlife, contiguous programmes, forward and backward tracing of risk animals, gamma interferon testing and cleansing and disinfection. 

Each TB outbreak is investigated by a Department Veterinary Inspector (VI) to seek to determine the source of infection. In every outbreak involving two or more standard reactors, a VI visits the farm to advise the herdowner on how to eliminate infection and to enable the farmer to take the measures needed to help reduce the risk of recurrence.

In an area that show a significant increase in bTB levels, the Regional Veterinary Office (RVO) implements a High Impact bTB Control Plan and works with farmers and other stakeholders to reduce levels of bTB in those areas.  These control plans involve increased levels of testing and other control measures being implemented in the area. Intensified co-operation and collaboration with local famers and other stakeholders in these areas helps to reduce the level of disease as seen recently for example in the Cavan, Monaghan and Clare areas (see the herd incidence table below).

In January 2021, I launched a new Bovine TB Eradication Strategy 2021-2030. One of the strategy’s key strategic actions is the further development of High Impact bTB Control plans in consultation with the Implementation Working Group of the TB Stakeholder Forum.

Ireland’s bovine TB Eradication Programme operates in line with best national and international scientific research and advice. A large body of peer-reviewed research has been conducted into the spread of bTB in Ireland and the risks underlying its transmission. This research has found that the principle causes of bTB spread include:

  • the movement of cattle with undetected infection;
  • residual infection in cattle previously exposed to bTB, but not identified at that point as being infected;
  • spread across farm boundaries;
  • indirect spread through biosecurity breaches, and
  • spread from infected badgers to cattle.  

This research has recently been reviewed in its entirety for the Bovine TB Stakeholder Forum by its Scientific Working Group which comprises a panel of internationally recognised experts in bTB research. The results of that review are available on 

Herd Incidence Table for Cavan, Monaghan and Clare (High Impact bTB Control Plans)

CountyHerd Incidence 22nd May 2022Herd Incidence 23rd May 2021
National Overall4.33%4.31%



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