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Minister Coveney clarifies position on new contiguous testing arrangements

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today clarified the new arrangements relating to TB testing of herds which are contiguous to high risk breakdowns following a meeting between his Department officials and the IFA.

Minister Coveney said that there has been a significant improvement in the Bovine TB situation in recent years as evidenced by the fact that the number of reactors has declined from 40,000 to 18,500 during the period 2000 to 2011. This is the lowest recorded since the commencement of the eradication programme in the 1950's and improves on the record low achieved in 2010.  In view of this improvement, his Department had implemented a number of enhancements to current TB controls earlier this year.

With regard to contiguous herds, Minister Coveney emphasised that the only change from previous arrangements was that contiguous herds are now being trade restricted, except to slaughter, pending a TB test. Previously, such herds were permitted to sell cattle on the open market prior to carrying out the test and research had shown that this posed a risk to clear herds. Any herd which tests clear will be immediately de-restricted. The Minister clarified that the trade restriction would only apply to those herds which were identified, following an epidemiological investigation by his Department, as being relevant to the breakdown herd and which had not been tested in the previous 4 months. The Minister emphasised that herd owners would be contacted by his Department prior to restriction and only those herds which  on a case by case consideration, are identified as genuinely relevant to the breakdown will be restricted. He also stressed that, since the Department pays for contiguous tests within a 10 month timeframe, the new arrangements would not impose any additional testing costs on farmers.

In conclusion, the Minister said that he acknowledged that the new arrangements would impose some restriction on certain farmers but the overall objective sought by the changes was to protect clear herds from buying in potentially infected animals. He also said the clarification now provided would be of help to any farmer involved.

Date Released: 17 May 2012