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Bovine TB in Ireland

 Added by  becky
 5 Jun 2013, 6:56 PM

Southern Ireland is currently culling badgers and has been doing so for several years. They are held up as an example by those that support badger culling. What are the facts?
Email from MR:
Published TB stats for NI up to March this year show bTB in the NI herd has been falling month on month since October 2012. .
It was confirmed to me today by a DARD vet, informally, that the downward trend continues.
The 2011/12 bTB rise in the province was unexpected and unexplained. However, no one here of any importance in the industry or DARD has attributed this to badgers or the absence of a cull. Suffice to say that any industry speculation Iíve heard has been about cattle-related factors.
Thereís more data here in NI about badgers than either GB or the Irish Republic. We know that everything about the NI badger population is very stable. It would be very difficult to even speculate how variations in cattle incidence could have anything to do with badgers.
Email from MR:
The NFU is claiming that since 2008, badger control measures in the Republic of Ireland have resulted in a decrease of TB in cattle by almost a third. In New Zealand, a comprehensive bTB management programme including wildlife control has reduced infected herd numbers from 1,700 in 1994 to around 70 today. However, we have heard via an email today that apart from the post F&M spike (caused by the industry), the trends in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic are remarkably similar. There has been no badger culling in Northern Ireland. The NI trend and levels have been achieved by cattle measures alone. Apparently no-one in Northern Irleland has attributed the 2011 rise in TB incidence to badgers although the cause remains unknown. We understand that NZ research ruled out INDIRECT transmission of TB from possums to cattle. Yet it is indirect transmission that is being cited by the NFU and others. Evidence shows that very little DIRECT contact takes place between badgers and cattle.
An interesting point about the 2011 rise is that it was consistent across ALL veterinary divisions in Northern Ireland. This is most unusual as individual divisional incidences normally vary, contributing to the published aggregate incidence for the whole province. This could well suggest an underlying industry or data handling cause.

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