Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

TB Eradication Programme: Discussion

Mr. Gerry Neary:

I remember it. Deputy McConalogue asked my opinion of Professor More's suggestion. With regard to TB and Johne's disease, risk-based assessments must play a bigger part when there are no specific deaths. We must assess the risk of the herd infecting other animals rather than relying on specific tests to identify particular animals and stating the rest of the herd is fine. A herd analysis of risk must be done.

The 30 day pre-movement test after six months was mentioned. My understanding of the outcome of TB tests done way back is that in the first year of having TB, four reactors put with four ordinary cattle are unlikely to spread it but if they are left together for a second year the spread occurs. In other words, that is when the breakdown happens in the reactors and they become spreaders. With regard to yearly tests as opposed to tests every six months, if a farmer buys an animal on a specific day, which is almost a year since that animal had been tested, and that farmer's annual herd test is not until almost the same time the following year, it means that potentially an animal bought in could go two years without a test. This is a huge risk as it will have gone into a second year without a test. There would be merit to having a pre-movement test of high-risk animals. It would be of benefit.

With regard to residual animals and the two years in which they can potentially spread TB, the single greatest godsend for the TB testing scheme was the farmer payment. The farmer payment means a test is guaranteed every year. I remember having entire years off in the early 1980s. In a particular budgetary year either 20% or 40% of the high-risk herds would be tested and the remainder of the herds would be left untested for that year, and the following year perhaps 60% might be done but others went untested again. There was no hope TB would be reduced, never mind eradicated, so long that residual TB was allowed to reinfect. At least now, when we have a test every year, most TB will be picked up at a point before the animal's ability to spread it.

With regard to how we will manage inspections at ports, we were consulted briefly - no, in fact, we were told it was happening. With regard to availability, the Veterinary Council's register has increased from 2,600 to 2,800 this year. We are producing plenty of graduates in UCD, Trinity, Budapest, Warsaw-----