9 July 1999

Ulster TBaction

NEW EU legislation means cattle herds in Northern Ireland with inconclusive TB test results and a confirmed outbreak in the last three years are to be served with restriction orders until a clear test.

The British government is said to be preparing to consult the GB cattle industry on the new EC directive, which concerns animal health and trade within the EU and came into effect on July 1.

Northern Ireland has already amended its legislation, and the move will mean a further 250-300 herds a year being placed under restriction, says Margaret Feore, senior officer at the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland. All herds in Northern Ireland are tested annually for TB.

"Inconclusive results are relatively common in Ireland because acid soil and the climate encourages non-specific bacteria which can interfere with results."

Under the legislation, when cattle give inconclusive TB test results in a herd affected by TB within the last three years, the herd will be placed under restriction. Either a positive or inconclusive result at the re-test will result in that animal being sent for slaughter. The herd will then be re-tested. A clear test will be required before restrictions are removed, says Mrs Feore.

Where theres no history of TB within the last three years and an animal gives an inconclusive result will be isolated and retested. A further inconclusive test can lead to another retesting or slaughter.

In Britain, the government is preparing to consult industry on the directive, says NFU policy adviser Peter Rudman. "Broadly speaking, the NFUs view is that it wants moves to control TB without imposing unnecessary constraints on herds."