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What can I do to reduce the risk of TB on my farm?

On June 28th, 2020, the rolling 12-month herd incidence for bTB was 4%, meaning that in the previous 12 months, 4,225 herds out of 105,561 tested had at least one bTB positive animal, according to new figures released by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

This is the highest level of bTB in Ireland since 2012, and continues the trend of a gradual ongoing increase in bTB incidence in recent years, it explained.

The DAFM has provided the following recommendations for herd keepers to reduce their risk of TB:

1. Reduce the risk from badgers 

i) If badger setts or latrines are present on grazing land, fence them off with electric fencing to keep the grazing cattle away. This is to avoid cattle coming into contact with contaminated soil. 

ii) Do not feed cattle concentrates spread on the ground, and try to avoid spilling feed on the ground, as badgers and deer may consume it and contaminate any leftovers which cattle. 

iii) Feed cattle in raised troughs. 

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iv) Wildlife-proof farm buildings by covering the lower part of access gates to sheds so wildlife can’t get through. 

v) Advise DAFM of any badger setts on your farm. 

2. Reduce the risk of contiguous spread 

i) Ensure boundary fences are well maintained, particularly if neighbouring land has a herd which has had bTB in the recent past. 

ii) Avoid mixing groups of cattle which are normally managed on separate land 

fragments. 

3. Reduce the risk of residual infection 

i) Consider culling any cattle which ever tested inconclusive, even if they subsequently re-tested negative, as the science shows they are a risk. 

ii) Consider culling any cattle which were in the herd during any previous bTB breakdown, particularly older cows, as the science shows they are a risk. 

4. Reduce the risk of introducing cattle which are infected 

i) If purchasing cattle, reduce the risk by sourcing them from a herd which has not had a bTB breakdown in recent years. 

ii) If purchasing cattle at a mart, cattle with a more recent bTB test date are likely to 

be at less risk than similar cattle which were last bTB tested many months ago. 

5. General advice 

i) Ensure good quality bTB testing facilities are available and the vet receives any assistance needed. 

ii) Farmers engaged in contract rearing should consider their biosecurity measures 

and how they would manage a bTB breakdown affecting the contract arrangements. Avoid feeding pooled unpasteurised milk to calves in dairy herds. 

iii) Effective cleaning and disinfection of any areas where reactors were kept is essential and will reduce the risk of environmental contamination infecting other cattle. 

iv) If sharing machinery, trailers, etc. with other farms, minimise the risk of bTB spread through environmental contamination by cleaning and disinfection before moving from one farm to another. 

v) When breeding, select bulls which are genetically more resistant to bTB and avoid those more genetically susceptible. ICBF provides bTB scores for bulls on their website, using a traffic light system. 

vi) For practical advice and information on bovine TB, take a look at advice videos, which can be found at www.bovinetb.ie or by emailing – erad@agriculture.gov.ie 

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