TB and bird flu stand out as the main blotches on an otherwise typical year for animal health in the Department of Agriculture's annual report for last year.

2020 saw a rise in the number of avian influenza (AI) cases, with the first highly pathogenic bird flu cases confirmed since 1983 leading to the loss of the state’s AI-free status.

The introduction of precautionary measures, including restricting the movement of birds, was deemed by the Department of Agriculture to have been the primary factor in isolating the outbreak and mitigating the probability of the disease spreading nationally.

TB was reported in the Department’s review of 2020 to have reached its highest level since 2009, as the badger BCG vaccination programme was scaled up.

The Department’s monitoring systems found no cases of brucellosis or bluetongue last year.

The incidence of persistently infected (PI) BVD cases fell to 0.03%, from 0.04% in 2019.

The sectoral savings estimated to have accrued through the BVD eradication scheme is €102m per year, according to the Department.


There was one bovine animal diagnosed with a case of atypical BSE last year - the first such diagnosis since 2016.

The number of sheep flock identified with atypical scrapie fell from six in 2019 to one in 2020.

It is noted that these atypical cases of BSE and scrapie generally occur spontaneously and are not known to be infectious.

COVID-19 disruption

The disruptions of the pandemic had a limited impact on the operation of the Department’s regional veterinary laboratories, according to the report.

The number of tissue and serum samples analysed in labs increased, suggesting that farmers and veterinary practitioners may have been less likely to travel to the labs with fallen livestock and instead relied on submission of samples.