The Department of Agriculture has announced that it will move forward with the recommendations in the bovine tuberculosis (bTB) eradication strategy in respect of inconclusive animals following discussions with the implementation working group of the TB Forum.

Research shows that cattle which test inconclusive to the bTB skin test are at increased risk of becoming reactors at a later date, even after testing negative on a re-test.

In that context they also pose a risk of spreading disease to other cattle within their herd.

Currently, in some cases, these animals after retesting clear, are kept on farms for extended periods of time.

The Department has said that whilst not all inconclusive animals progress to being reactors, they do so at such frequency that it is important to intervene to reduce this risk.

New rules

The new approach is designed to reduce the risk from these inconclusive animals. New rules include:

  • Increasing the time between the first skin test where inconclusive reactors are found and the retest.
  • Blood testing by the Department of the inconclusive reactors within 30 days after the first skin test where they have been found.
  • Carrying out blood tests by the Department every six months on inconclusive animals that pass the skin retest and the first blood test.
  • If these animals ever test inconclusive again at a future test, they will be removed as reactors.

    Where a herd has a bTB breakdown and it already has some historical old inconclusive animals, these will be removed as reactors with full compensation.

    If four or more new inconclusive reactors are disclosed at a test, without any other reactors, they will be made reactor and removed with full compensation.

    In cases where you have one or more reactors on a test, other inconclusive reactors on the test will be made reactor and removed from the herd with full compensation.

    Cattle movements

    In the past some herds were able to sell animals while the inconclusive animal was awaiting a retest.

    Under new EU rules any herd with an inconclusive reactor will be restricted and will remain restricted until the inconclusive animal retests clear or is slaughtered. It will still be possible to move animals directly for slaughter.

    See for more information.