THE Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development received an update earlier this week from DARD on its Test, Vaccinate and Release (TVR) model of dealing with bovine TB in badgers and on the badger sett survey.
The badger sett survey is intended to help establish the number and location of badger setts in two areas between Banbridge and Rathfriland and between Castlewellan, Slieve Croob, Seaforde and Dundrum. The TVR model will allow the Department to capture, test and vaccinate and release badgers without bovine TB. Those badgers testing positive for bovine TB will be removed.
The Committee has been closely monitoring the TVR modelling work and the survey following its report on the ‘Review into Bovine Tuberculosis’ in November 2012.
Committee Chairperson, Paul Frew MLA said: “Bovine TB is a costly and challenging animal health disease. In November 2012, the Committee published its report into bovine tuberculosis and urged that the Department take action to ensure that the disease does not take a firmer hold in Northern Ireland. It has been nearly 12 months to the day since the Minister announced the TVR exercise to the Committee. As a Committee we find it hard to understand why progress on this aspect is taking so long.
“The update from the Department on the TVR exercise and the survey was very useful and I’d like to encourage those farmers that DARD has requested to participate in the badger sett survey to respond positively to the request. However, there are still questions to be answered regarding this very serious disease. I would like to see more progress on the Committee’s recommendations from the Report. For instance, the Committee’s desire to see eradication of bovine TB in the Programme for Government and more research to understand the potential impact of liver fluke and Johne’s Disease to the sensitivity of the testing for bovine TB.”
Deputy Chairperson, Joe Byrne MLA said: “Bovine TB has cost us around £317m over the 15 years up to March 2011; this does not take into account the personal stress and emotional distress that herd breakdowns bring for many farming families.
“The briefing from DARD officials on the TVR exercise and the badger sett survey is another example of the Committee’s in depth scrutiny of this issue. We will continue to keep an active watching brief on this issue and to encourage the Minister and her Department to put more initiatives in place to help completely eradicate this devastating disease.”