DAERA is continuing to pay 100% of the value of TB-reactor cattle in NI, although whether that policy remains is dependent on future budget allocations to DAERA, Agriculture Minister Andrew Muir has said.

Proposals to cut compensation to 90% of reactor value were set out by DAERA in a public consultation last year, with the change to apply from the start of the current 2024/2025 financial year. Thereafter, compensation would be reduced to 75%. The cuts were vehemently opposed by NI farming organisations.

Speaking at the Stormont Agriculture committee last Thursday, Minister Muir described TB funding as the “biggest pressure within my department” and said difficult decisions had been made to keep compensation at 100% of value.

However, going forward he said it was important money is allocated to DAERA in the June monitoring round, which is a system that allows Stormont departments to bid for additional funding through the year.

“If I don’t get that, the pressures within my department are going to be unbearable,” said the minister.

DAERA budget

The wider strain on the department’s budget was set out by DAERA finance director Roger Downey. For the 2024/2025 financial year, DAERA had originally bid for £95.8m from the Department of Finance to cover resource spend (such as TB costs), but only received £15.2m. To cover capital spend, it had bid for £155.2m and received £95m.

“This is an extremely difficult outcome for the department,” said Downey.

TB statistics

Meanwhile, the latest bovine TB statistics published by DAERA continue to show high rates of disease. At the end of March 2024, TB herd incidence (the number of new reactor herds as a proportion of those tested) stands at 10.1%, up slightly on the 10.02% recorded at the end of February.

Across the first quarter of 2024 a total of 4,907 cattle have been removed off farm as reactors, up 9.5% on the equivalent period in 2023 and 41% ahead of the 2022 total.