The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) was notified of 2,917 new badger setts across the country in 2020.
This information was obtained through a variety of sources, DAFM told Agriland, including surveys, carried out by DAFM technical officers, vets and contractors.
These surveys targeted areas where DAFM’s spatial system indicates there may be setts.
Information was also retrieved by farmers responding to written/oral/text requests for information on the location of setts.
On notification of a sett, DAFM reviews it and, if it is confirmed, it is added to the database of setts.
“The level of badger activity at the sett is assessed and a programme of vaccination/removal is only undertaken at setts where there is badger activity,” DAFM explained.
DAFM has recorded 43,715 openings, which are recorded as probable badger setts of which approximately 50% have yielded a badger since the vaccination programme started.
Rising levels of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) continued into the first quarter of 2021, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, confirmed recently.
Up to May 9, 2021, the herd incidence rate was 4.27% compared to 3.92% on May 10, 2020.
The map above indicates the areas experiencing high levels of bTB in the 12 months to the end of the first quarter in 2021.
TB – multifactorial
However, the reasons for the recent increase in TB levels are multifactorial and often relate to a combination of national and local factors, according to DAFM.
“The expansion of the dairy herd since 2015 has played a role in this, since dairy herds, larger herds, farm fragmentation and herds which introduce more cattle are all more at risk of TB breakdowns. Wildlife is also a factor,” it said.
Animal Health Ireland (AHI) runs the Targeted Advisory Service for Animal Health (TASAH) programme, through which farmers can receive animal-health advice from vets trained for that purpose on issues such as bovine viral diarrhoea or Johnes Disease.
In late 2020, AHI and DAFM jointly launched a TB TASAH programme, whereby farmers with TB breakdowns could receive a TASAH visit from a veterinary practitioner who would advise them on how to improve their TB biosecurity and reduce their TB risk, DAFM said.
“This started as a pilot in a number of areas, and is now being expanded further to cover all of north Cork, Limerick, Clare, Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan, with further roll-out expected in due course,” DAFM confirmed.