Belfast Telegraph

Badgers to be tested for TB after spike in livestock

By Cate McCurry

A number of measures to tackle a spike in tuberculosis (TB) in cattle are being implemented across Northern Ireland.

Badgers in two areas are to be tested for TB as part of the ongoing battle to eradicate the disease from livestock.

The move comes days after Stormont officials said there will be no badger cull here.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said it is committed to a scheme that sees the protected species captured and vaccinated.

Its Chief Veterinary Officer, Robert Huey, said, however that recent figures show a "sharp increase" in bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

Announcing that DAERA would be deploying a range of additional and enhanced measures to strengthen its bTB Eradication Programme, Mr Huey said that disease continues to be a "major concern" for farmers.

"Although we have a comprehensive bTB Eradication Programme disease incidence levels have recently shown a sharp increase," he said.

"As a result of our robust bTB testing regime, working in partnership with farmers and private veterinary practitioners, around 90% of our herds are free from bTB and able to engage in international trade.

"However, in light of increasing bTB incidence over the past year, it is important that we continue to identify how we can improve the programme so that we can identify and remove infected animals at the earliest opportunity and take other actions needed to protect herds."

Around 8.6% of herds are affected by the disease, though this figure is higher in some areas.

Mr Huey said the new measures, which will be rolled out in the coming weeks, will strengthen the bTB Programme.

The two areas for badger survey are Aghadowey in Co Londonderry and a location near Omagh. These spots were selected because they have a high density of herds with TB and a large number of badgers.

Trapped badgers will have blood samples taken and tested and any that have tested positive for the disease will be put down.

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