The eradication of Bovine TB has been a Departmental policy in Northern Ireland for over fifty years, having been introduced in 1964.
In a new report released by the Comptroller and Auditor General of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) today, November 27th, it has been revealed the true costs of these eradication attempts. Since its introduction, the Bovine TB policy has cost £555m (€625m), £85m of which was funder through salvage receipts and EU co-funding.
The report, ‘Eradicating Bovine TB in Northern Ireland’, examines the escalating costs of the programme and also highlights that last year’s Bovine TB eradication attempts in Northern Ireland cost £44m or €49m, £10m of this was again funded through salvage receipts and EU co-funding. According to the report, £23m of this was paid out as compensation to farmers for compulsory cattle removals.
Northern Ireland currently has a Bovine TB herd prevalence rate of 12.4%, which represents one in eight herds. This is similar to Wales at 12.5%, but higher than the Republic of Ireland (4.9%) and Scotland (0.2%). England currently have the highest prevalence rate, at 20.4%.
The report also outlines the DEARA proposals to adopt a new strategic approach to TB control, ultimately leading to the disease’s eradication.
“The long-running and costly Bovine TB eradication programme has not achieved Bovine TB-free status for Northern Ireland and, therefore, cannot be seen as value for money. Under current arrangements, Northern Ireland farmers receive 100 per cent compensation when their animals are compulsorily removed for disease control purposes.” Said Comptroller and Auditor General of NIAO, Mr. Donnelly.
“In effect, since 1998 the public purse has underwritten farmers’ risk of herds contracting Bovine TB. This has provided little incentive for the industry to share ownership of the problem. Stakeholders (government, farming industry and environmentalists) must work together if the disease is to be eliminated.” He continued.
The report acknowledges that prevalence of the disease would have been significantly higher and would have hindered the success of the agri-food sector in the absence of any interventions by the Department. Farmers in Northern Ireland have received over £158m in compensation since 2006 for the removal of cattle from their herds, with 127,427 cattle taken out under the programme.
The report estimates that one in five TB transmissions are caused by wildlife. The spread of the disease between cattle and from new stock accounts for one in five transmissions. One-quarter of transmissions are from an unknown source. You can read the report in full here.