The bovine TB eradication programme cost taxpayers over £35m during 2019, according the latest figures from DAERA.
A report published last week states that TB costs in NI amounted to £35.32m during the 12-month period, although this is down from £38.84m in 2018.
The reduction is mainly due to lower compensation costs paid for reactor animals.
In 2019, compensation amounted to £20.05m, down from £23.56m the year before.
Overall, there were 13,019 skin test reactors found on NI farms during 2019. The total is a 15% decrease on the 15,329 reactors detected in 2018.
The only income stream related to TB for DAERA comes from the “salvage value” of reactors
The next biggest cost associated with TB surrounds contracts with private vets for testing.
This came to £8.39m during 2019, while costs associated with DAERA’s veterinary and administration staff cost a further £7.79m.
The only income stream related to TB for DAERA comes from the “salvage value” of reactors which is paid by the meat factory that slaughtered the animal.
Salvage monies totalled £4.34m during 2019 (an average of £333/head), which represents just over 20% of the total compensation costs for reactors.
The annual report on TB states that 17.1% of badgers tested positive for TB during 2019 as part of a survey of roadkill.
Overall, 293 badgers were tested, and the prevalence rate was up from 16.1% the year before.
However, DAERA acknowledge that “the actual prevalence is likely to be higher”.
This is due to the test only involving a post-mortem examination of badgers to find visible TB lesions.
The report states that animals at an early stage of infection will not have developed detectable lesions and the examination will miss “a significant number” of infected badgers.