Farmers in Ireland are well aware of the implications of a tuberculosis (TB) reactor animal showing up in their herd following their annual herd bovine TB test, and the restrictions on livestock movements it imposes on their herd.

If TB is detected in a herd, the herd is restricted from moving cattle to prevent the onward spread of infection to other herds.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), herd-owners have two potential options to sell cattle and reduce stock numbers in a TB-restricted herd.

They are as follows:

  • Cattle may be sent directly to slaughter;
  • In certain circumstances, cattle may be moved under permit to a controlled finishing unit, e.g. where there are welfare issues.

While the above measures are a farmer’s options for selling cattle when their herd is restricted with TB, last year, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue announced changes under new EU TB regulations that would allow – under certain conditions – farmers whose herds are ‘locked up’ with TB to buy in cattle.

From Monday, August 2, last year (2021), farmers with restricted herds can follow certain protocols which, if approved by their Regional Veterinary Office (RVO), would allow them to move cattle in to their herd and restock their herd during a TB breakdown.

Under the new rules, where a farmer draws up a risk mitigation plan for the restricted herd and it is approved by their RVO, farmers can be given permission to introduce stock.

According to the DAFM, the plan should be practical, pragmatic, and help the farmer to reduce the risk of a recurring or prolonged TB breakdowns in the herd.

Once the plan is approved and in place, cattle may be moved under permit into the restricted herd.

In announcing the derogation last year, McConalogue said: “While a TB breakdown can cause immense stress for farmers and farm families, this change will make it simpler for the business of farming to continue for restricted herds, while at the same time mitigating the risk of a prolonged or recurring breakdown.”