One issue many livestock farmers are anxious of when buying-in cattle is the risk of bringing bovine tuberculosis (TB) into their herd.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s superintending veterinary inspector (SVI) and head of the Wildlife Unit, Ruminant Animal Health, Philip Breslin, believes knowledge of a herd’s previous TB status can greatly reduce said risk.

Speaking at an Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) farm walk in Co. Cavan recently, Breslin said: “The best thing you can do when you’re buying is to ask the farmer what the herd’s (TB) risk status is.

“If the farmer says it’s C-10, it means the herd has been clear from TB for 10 years and if a farmer has been clear for 10 years, the TB risk for buying animals is fairly low.”

The theme of the farm walk was ‘Bovine TB’ and at the walk, a badger set was visited and a discussion took place on ways to reduce the risk of TB if a badger set is found on a farmer’s land.

“I’m not trying to get away from the fact that wildlife are very much involved in TB, I know they are,” said Breslin.

“But residual infection and movement of cattle is also a part.”

The department vet expressed confidence that TB can be eradicated from the bovine herd in the near future, but acknowledged that the TB eradication programme has been running for a long time.

“We’ve been doing it (TB testing) since the 50s,” he said, “why haven’t we got rid of it?”

“If we keep doing what we have been doing we will keep moving along with TB at much the same levels as we have. It will be suppressed, but we won’t be capable of eliminating it.

“I firmly believe after being in the TB arena for a number of years that unless some other moves are taken, we won’t move to eradicate TB.”

He outlined that the TB Forum is “where arguments are fought out now” and said “we, at DAFM, have put forward our view in the forum that we need to do extra and we saw what happened when we tried to inform farmers of the risk of TB within the cattle in their herds, there was a burn it campaign by a farm organisation”.

Breslin asked farmers in attendance: “Should you not be able to see how long it is since someone has had TB in their herd when buying cattle?”

He acknowledged that people who are selling breeding stock who have had TB in their herd in recent years “might think this is a disaster of an idea” because it will affect the value of what they’re selling, and noted that farmers who “buy in replacements might think it’s a really good idea”.

Concluding, he reiterated: “I think farmers should have the choice and the information should be available when buying animals.”