Within the Irish national bovine tuberculosis (bTB) eradication programme, controls are tighter on higher risk herds, known as H-herds. These H-herds are defined as herds that have previously had a bTB restriction (also known as a bTB episode), with at least 2 animals positive to the single intradermal comparative tuberculin test (SICTT) or with a bTB lesion detected at slaughter. Such herds are considered at higher risk of recurrence following the end of the bTB episode. In this study, we examined if, and when, the future bTB risk of H-herds returned to a similar level comparable to herds with no history of bTB. In addition, the proportion of bTB episodes in 2012 that could be attributed to the recent introduction of an infected animal was also estimated, providing an update of earlier work. The study population consisted of all Irish herds that were not bTB restricted at the start of 2012 and with at least one whole-herd SICTT in 2012, with the herd being the unit of interest. The outcome measure was a bTB restriction, defined as any herd where at least 1 standard SICTT reactor or an animal with a bTB lesion at slaughter in 2012 was identified. A logistic regression model was used to model the probability of a herd being restricted in 2012. Herds that were previously restricted had significantly higher odds of being restricted in 2012 compared to herds that had not. Similarly, the odds of being restricted in 2012 decreased as the time since the previous restriction increased, but increased as the severity of the previous restriction increased. Odds of being restricted also increased with an increase (although not linear) in herd size, the number of animals greater than 1 year of age purchased in 2011, the county incidence rate and the proportion of cows in the herd. The recent introduction of an infected animal accounted for 7.4% (6.7-8.2) of herd restrictions. This study confirms the key role of past bTB history in determining the future risk of Irish herds, with the odds related to both the severity of and time since the previous restriction. It also illustrates the difficulty in clearly defining H-herds, noting that risk persists for extended periods following a bTB restriction, regardless of breakdown severity. There is a need for robust controls on H-herds for an extended period post de-restriction.
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