Major outbreak of bovine TB in East Donegal farm

Herd of cattle.


MORE than forty animals have been slaughtered at a farm in East Donegal in recent weeks following an outbreak of Bovine TB.


It is one of the largest ever recorded incidences of the disease in the county and it is suggested that it might take the farm two years to recover.

When contacted yesterday, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine said they were unable to comment on individual cases or herds.

However, a spokesman did confirm that there are 42 Donegal cattle herds currently restricted due to bovine TB.

In 2019 in Donegal, 117 herds experienced a bTB breakdown (2.32% herd incidence rate) and there were 219 reactors (animals testing positive). This compares with a national average herd incidence rate in 2019 of 3.72%.

Laurence McNamee is Animal Health Officer in Donegal with the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA). He said it was ‘very unique’ that one herd in Donegal would be hit by such high numbers.

“It’s devastating when anyone loses that number of animals. None of us want to have TB to start with in our herds. We would probably take the inconvenience of losing one or two animals but when you get to those numbers you’re possibly talking about generations of breeding.

“I don’t know about that particular cases but to lose such large numbers through TB would be very unique around these parts,” Mr McNamee said.


Most recent figures show that there are almost 5,200 herds in Donegal. At present 42 herds are restricted due to a bTB breakdown and there were 97 reactors, or little more than two animals per herd testing positive.

“Mayo and Donegal have the lowest twelve month rolling incidence rates at 1.96 and 1.98 per cent respectively so, overall, the county is in a good place when it comes to TB.

“Most TB outbreaks are what they call singletons – one animal testing positive – and it doesn’t tend to be an issue in the long term. Larger outbreaks, especially in Donegal, are quite rare although TB in general appears to be on the rise nationwide at present,” he said.

At end-September 2020 National Herd Incidence was 4.25%.

There are higher levels of bTB in the north-east of Ireland (Monaghan, Cavan, Louth and North Meath) as well as parts of Clare, Cork, Galway and Wicklow.

While bTB disease is low relative to historical levels, TB herd incidence and reactor numbers have been gradually increasing since 2016. The pace of deterioration has accelerated in 2020. Herd incidence is now at its highest level since 2012 and reactor numbers are now at 2009 rates.

The Animal Health Officer said that it was important to find out the source of the problem and, ultimately, the aim is to eradicate TB in Ireland by 2030.

“We need to find out if it came from the movement of wildlife, like deer and badgers,” he said.

Over recent weeks, the Department has been contacting farmers to ask them to notify the presence of badger setts on their lands.

“Stop badgers getting to cattle, stop cattle getting to badgers, tell your Regional Veterinary Office if you have setts. Farmers should not, under any circumstances interfere with badgers or their setts. To do so is an offence under the Wildlife Acts.” the message read.

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