Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Cattle disease brucellosis almost eradicated in Northern Ireland

A virulent cattle disease has plummeted to its lowest level in Northern Ireland since the 1990s.

Although the province was declared free of brucellosis in 1982, the disease was seen sporadically in the 1980s and early 1990s — but returned with a vengeance in the late 1990s as an epidemic.

Since then, Department of Agriculture officials have been battling the disease and it has significantly declined since 2008.

Efforts to eradicate the disease in south Armagh have been hampered by a series of sinister incidents in which criminals attempted to deliberately infect herds.

In one incident, part of a calf carcass was dumped in silage that was being used to feed heifers. Police were called in after an infected calf foetus was left at the home of a department official in 2010, while another was found slashed open and sprinkled with cattle feed near a feeding trough at a Co Armagh farm.

The highly contagious disease causes abortions and infertility and can be transmitted to humans, causing debilitating illness.

Vaccination and then testing and slaughter schemes reduced the level of disease in Northern Ireland from over 60% of herds in the 1930s to 3% by 1970. The percentage of herds currently affected is less than 0.1%.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said that the combined efforts of the farming community and her department had achieved significant progress during difficult times.

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