Pioneering vet backed by Brian May to speak at NI TB conference

A vet whose pioneering research into bovine TB has been backed by militant animal rights activist Queen guitarist Brian May is set to speak at a major TB conference in Northern Ireland next Thursday.

The Pedigree Cattle Trust has organised the event, which takes place next week in the Seagoe Hotel, Portadown, Co. Armagh.

Registration for the free event is essential and tickets will be available online on a ‘first come, first served’ basis until 12:00pm this Wednesday, January 24.

The conference will run between 7:30pm to 9:30pm this Thursday, January 25, and aims to highlight developments in bovine TB testing.

Guest speakers are set to include: Richard Sibley, a pioneering vet trialling early detection methods for bovine TB; David Simpson MP; Victor Chestnutt, deputy president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU); and Fraser Menzies, DAERA veterinary epidemiology unit.

Research

Richard Sibley has been carrying out research which he believes may help eradicate bovine tuberculosis without a single badger being killed.

He is trialling two new tests – the first of these detects TB in cattle months before they test positive with the traditional “skin test”.

Richard Sibley

To find out if they are infectious, a second test detects TB in dung, showing if a cow is “shedding” – spreading – the disease.

If it is, the cow is slaughtered even though the conventional test suggests it is healthy. He is also looking at ways to prevent the spread of the disease by changing the conditions in which the cows are kept and measures to ensure mothers are not passing the disease to newborn calves.

Also joining the TB conference panel is Upper Bann MP David Simpson, a senior partner in a successful business in the agri-food sector which has been operating for more than 30 years.

It currently trades in Northern Ireland, Britain, the Republic of Ireland, the EU and Far East. He is the DUP Westminster spokesman on Business, Skills and Innovation; and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, while he also sits on Westminster’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Fraser Menzies, DAERA veterinary epidemiology unit

Fraser Menzies qualified as a veterinary surgeon in 1982 and spent five years in farm animal practice in Northern Ireland prior to joining the Scottish Agricultural College’s Veterinary Investigation Service after completion of an MSc.

He returned to Northern Ireland in 1990 to work as a veterinary epidemiologist at the then Veterinary Research Laboratories, Stormont.

His interest in population medicine has led to work across many species and diseases, from farmed salmon to badgers and from campylobacter in poultry to bovine TB.

He obtained his PhD from Queen’s University, Belfast investigating some of the economically-important diseases of cattle – coliform mastitis and liver fluke.

Menzies joined DAERA’s veterinary epidemiology unit, which he currently manages, at its formation in 2003.

The bulk of the epidemiology unit’s work currently revolves around the epidemiology of bovine TB and evaluating the risk and mitigation measures from preventing exotic animal diseases entering Northern Ireland.