The current incidence rate of bovine TB in NI is at its highest level since compulsory testing was introduced in 1959, analysis by the Irish Farmers Journal has found.

The latest figures show that annual herd incidence of the disease reached 10.41% in January 2023, marking an unwanted milestone in DAERA’s bovine TB eradication programme.

The last major peak of the disease occurred in the aftermath of foot and mouth disease in 2001 when testing was disrupted, and herd incidence (defined as the number of new reactor herds as a proportion of those tested) eventually hit 10.20% early in 2003.

Since then it has generally sat between 5% and 8%, although it did head towards 10% in 2017 and 2018 before falling below 8% in 2019. However, from mid-2020 onwards, disease rates have been steadily going in the wrong direction again.

It is a long way from the early 1960s when incidence rate was at very low levels, and the then Ministry of Agriculture thought NI was close to TB eradication.

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