O’Neill encouraged by decrease in brucellosis outbreaks
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today said she was encouraged by recent statistics on brucellosis, where the disease incidence is at its lowest level since the 1990s.
She said: “The combined efforts of the farming community in the north and my Department have clearly achieved significant progress during these difficult times. I would like to thank the vast majority of farmers who are working positively and constructively with my veterinary staff to help eradicate the disease. Indeed we are on track to achieve the target in the Programme for Government to reduce Brucellosis confirmed annual herd incidence to zero by 2014.”
Despite the downward trend Minister O’Neill cautioned against complacency. She said: “We know that brucellosis can persist silently in cattle for months or even years. It can also flare up and spread explosively.
“I and my veterinary and enforcement colleagues are still concerned that brucellosis infected material could still be out there in the country.
“With the small number of outbreaks we currently have, each one is investigated thoroughly as to source. The strain type of the Brucella bacteria is compared to every other outbreak going back to the year 2000 and DNA material is gathered from the cattle at every point in the process. Anyone found engaged in deliberately introducing the disease into herds, or any other illegal activity, will have their compensation cut and be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
For the next few years the Minister said it was vital that herd keepers adhere to the testing programme that their Veterinary Offices have deemed necessary for them. She added: “It is of paramount importance that farmers continue to report every cattle abortion to their local office. We will also continue to monitor bulk milk and cattle at abattoirs. The combination of all these actions should enable us to find the last remnants of the disease.
“When we achieve eradication, and secure EU Commission recognition of our Officially Brucellosis Free status, it will be possible to scale down the brucellosis scheme. Pre-movement testing will be phased out and herd testing and will be significantly reduced. This will benefit the entire Industry. Hopefully that day will come sooner rather than later. But we cannot afford to drop our guard. That is why I am again stressing the need to report any abortions or any suspicious activity.”