The new TB implementation working group set up as part of the Bovine TB Stakeholder Forum and chaired by Dr Sean Brady had its first meeting on Tuesday.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has welcomed the discussions on how to implement the actions in the strategy, which is hoped will reduce the threat of TB to farmers.

The Bovine TB Eradication Programme is the largest animal health programme, with over nine million individual TB tests carried out each year on more than 110,000 farms.

Disease levels have been rising since 2016 and pose a threat to trade access, with trading partners regularly seeking assurances that the programme is effective.

High reactor numbers

Minister McConalogue said: “On a 12-month rolling basis, reactor numbers have reached 22,137 and herd incidence has reached 4.19%.

"This means that in the last 12 months, 4,442 farm families have experienced the hardship and stress associated with a TB breakdown.

“That is why stakeholders must engage with the difficult and serious task of implementing the measures from the renewed TB Strategy as urgently as possible. This will reduce disease levels to the benefit of the farming community.”

A series of follow-up meetings are planned to progress the matters under discussion.