New approach to inconclusive reactor animals

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Following on from a recent meeting of the Implementation working group of the TB Forum, the Department has announced that it is now proposed to move forward with implementation of the recommendations in the bTB Eradication Strategy in respect of inconclusive animals. It was agreed at the Implementation working group that other potential initiatives regarding inconclusive reactors will be considered by the TB Forum at a future meeting.

Scientific research shows that cattle which test inconclusive to the bTB skin test are at increased risk of becoming reactors at a later date, even after testing negative on a re-test. In that context they also pose a risk of spreading disease to other cattle within their herd.  Currently, in some cases, these animals after re-testing clear, are kept on farms for extended periods of time. Whilst not all inconclusive animals progress to being reactors, they do so at such frequency that it is important in the context of protecting individual herds and for the success of the programme to intervene to reduce this risk.

The new approach is designed to reduce the risk from these inconclusive animals – the specific actions include

  • Increasing the time between the first skin test where inconclusive reactors are found and the retest. This will help to increase the possibility that all infected animals are found on the re-retest.
  • Blood testing by the Department of the inconclusive reactors within 30 days after the first skin test where they have been found.  This will also help to ensure all infected animals are found.
  • Carrying out blood tests by the Department every 6 months on inconclusive animals that pass the skin re-test and the first blood test.
  • If these animals ever test inconclusive again at a future test, they will be removed as reactors.
  • Where a herd has a bTB breakdown and it already has some historical old inconclusive animals, these will be removed as reactors with full compensation.
  • If four or more new inconclusive reactors are disclosed at a test, without any other reactors, they will be made reactor and removed with full compensation.
  • In cases where you have one or more reactors on a test, other inconclusive reactors on the test will be made reactor and removed from the herd with full compensation.
  • In the past some herds were able to sell animals while the inconclusive animal was awaiting a retest. Under new EU rules any herd with an inconclusive reactor will be restricted and will remain restricted until the inconclusive animal retests clear or is slaughtered. It will still be possible to move animals directly for slaughter.

DAFM will continue to give advice to farmers about these inconclusive animals. Farmers can then make an informed decision about whether to keep them or not.  See www.bovinetb.ie for more information on bTB.

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