TB vaccine could be game changer, says Poots

The roll out of a TB vaccine for cattle could “significantly change” bovine TB control in NI, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has said. Trials on cattle vaccines are underway in England and involve a new diagnostic test for TB, known as a DIVA test. This test aims to differentiate between livestock that are vaccinated and those that are infected with TB.

In response to a written question from Alliance MLA John Blair, Minister Poots pointed out that the use of vaccines for TB in cattle is currently prohibited under both NI and EU law.

“Should these trials prove successful, and the associated new differential test gain the required international approvals, the use of a vaccine supported by the appropriate DIVA testing regime would have the potential to significantly change the approach to controlling TB in cattle here in NI,” Minister Poots said.

Avian influenza zone in force across NI

An avian influenza (AI) prevention zone has come into effect across NI which requires poultry keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures.

The prevention zone does not make it mandatory for poultry to be housed, but DAERA has said that this will be kept under review.

Similar precautionary measures have been rolled out in the Republic of Ireland following detection of the H5N1 strain in wild birds. Several outbreaks of AI have been detected in Britain over the past week, including at commercial poultry units in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Antibiotic use in UK livestock halves

The amount of antibiotics used on livestock in the UK has more than halved over the past six years, according to the latest figures from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).

In 2020, sales of veterinary antibiotics for use in food-producing animals in the UK stood at 30.1 mg/kg, which represents a 1% reduction year on year and a 52% decrease when compared to 2014.

Among veterinary products that are classified as “highest priority critically important antibiotics” (HP-CIA), their use accounted for just 0.5% of total sales last year and is down 79% on 2014 levels.

“Working closely with the farming industry and the veterinary profession, we have achieved huge reductions in the use of antibiotics since 2014 and we are seeing reductions in resistance as well,” said VMD chief executive Abigail Seager.