TB Policy – Northern Ireland

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The TB Strategic Partnership Group launched its bTB Eradication Strategy on 15 December 2016. 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.

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Launch of Public Consultation

Department’s Response to the TBSPG’s Recommendations to Eradicate Bovine TB in Northern Ireland

The Tuberculosis Strategic Partnership Group (TBSPG) was established in 2014 to develop a long term strategy and implementation plan to eradicate bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in Northern Ireland. The group published its report “Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Strategy for Northern Ireland” on 15 December 2016.

This consultation exercise aims to set out the proposals of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) for a new strategic approach to the eradication of bTB.

The consultation paper therefore reflects DAERA’s consideration of, and response to, the recommendations made by the TBSPG in its ‘Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Strategy for Northern Ireland’ as published.

It should be noted, however, that any final decisions as a result of this consultation will be subject to the view of Ministers and take into account budget availability.

Seeking Your Views

We are seeking views from all interested parties on the content of the Consultation Paper; the accompanying Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA); the Rural Screening Assessment; and the Equality Screening Document. The consultation will run for a nine-week period from 30 November 2017 to 1 February 2018.

Responses should reach us by no later than 5:00pm on Thursday, 1 February 2018.

Copies of the consultation documents (Consultation Paper, RIA, Rural Screening Document and Equality Screening Document) are available by visiting the Consultations section of the DAERA website.

The proposals

  • A new approach to management, oversight and partnership working

DAERA is proposing new partnership structures which will give stakeholders a greater voice in influencing policy development, programme delivery and local decisions relating to bTB eradication.

  • Tools and processes

For most farmers, DAERA’s testing programme is the most familiar part of bTB control. The purpose of the programme is to identify and remove infected animals as quickly as possible and to reduce the opportunity for infection to be transmitted to other cattle. There are, however, limitations with the tests currently available. It is necessary, therefore, to consider a combination of approaches to maximise our ability to diagnose the disease, reduce its spread and remove infected animals as quickly as possible.

  • Wildlife

DAERA recognizes that badgers play a role in the maintenance and spread of bTB in cattle and accepts that action to address this risk must play a part in an overall bTB Eradication Strategy. We recognize that badgers are a protected species and agree that any intervention in the wildlife population must be proportionate and humane and must consider the welfare of both badgers and cattle.

In order that all aspects of the disease are tackled together, the Department proposes that intervention should involve a combined approach which would see actions put in place to address the disease in badgers alongside improved cattle measures.

  • Herd health management

Poor herd health management increases the risk of disease, which impacts on farm health, productivity and costs. This ultimately leads to negative effects on farm profitability and increases the risk of disease spread to other neighbouring herds.

DAERA currently provides a range of information, both through its website and in a number of leaflets aimed at providing general biosecurity advice and guidance to farmers.

In addition, we now intend to work through the new proposed partnership structures with the farming industry, veterinarians and CAFRE to develop an integrated approach to encouraging improved herd health management on farms, marts and agricultural shows.

  • Finance and funding

All costs relating to the bTB programme and compensation are currently covered through public funding. The cost of the bTB programme to taxpayers in 2016-2017 was some £35.5 million. For the financial year 2017-2018, it is estimated that the total programme costs will be approximately £40 million. In Northern Ireland, compensation is currently paid to herd-keepers at 100% of an animal’s full market value with no fixed upper limit.

The department is proposing changes to the current compensation system which would provide an opportunity to strike a more appropriate balance between ensuring reasonable compensation for farmers and protecting the interests of taxpayers. The Department is also seeking views on farmers contributing to the cost of bTB testing.

  • Research

DAERA’s agricultural policy is based on the key principle of robust evidence within its overall strategy for research. There is still much that is not known about how bTB spreads, how it can be diagnosed more effectively, and what can be done to prevent its spread between cattle and between wildlife and cattle. Research into bTB remains our priority given the significance of the disease.

How to respond

If you wish to take part in the consultation you can respond by using one of the following methods:

  1. Online at the Northern Ireland Hub – Citizen Space. Click here
  2. By email TBBR.Policybranch@daera-ni.gov.uk
  3. In writing to:

Bovine TB Consultation, TB BR Policy Branch, Animal Health & Welfare Division, Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs, Room 714, Dundonald House, Ballymiscaw, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 3SB.

Copies of the consultation documents (Consultation Paper, RIA, Rural Screening Document and Equality Screening Document) are available by visiting the Consultations section of the DAERA website.