Pre-movement testing for bovine tuberculosis (BTB) was compulsory in Ireland until 1996. We determined the proportion of herd restrictions (losing BTB-free status) attributable to the recent introduction of an infected bovid; described events between restoration of BTB-free status (de-restriction) and the next herd-level test for BTB; estimated the proportion of undetected infected cattle present at de-restriction; identified high-risk movements between herds (movements most likely to involve infected cattle); and determined the potential yield of infected cattle discovered (or herds that would not lose their BTB-free status) by pre-movement testing, relative to the numbers of cattle and herds tested. We used national data for all 6252 herds with a new BTB restriction in the 12 months from 1 April 2003 and 3947 herds declared BTB-free in the 12 months from 1 October 2001. We identified higher-risk animals from our logistic generalized estimating-equation models. We attributed 6-7% of current herd restrictions to the recent introduction of an infected animal. There were considerable changes to herd structure between de-restriction and the next full-herd test, and infection was detected in 10% of herds at the first assessment (full-herd test or abattoir surveillance) following de-restriction. Following movement from a de-restricted herd, the odds of an animal being positive at the next test increased with increasing time in the source herd prior to movement, increasing time between de-restriction and the next full-herd test and increasing severity of the source herd restriction. The odds decreased with increasing size of the source herd. We estimated that 15.9 destination-herd restrictions per year could be prevented for every 10,000 cattle tested pre-movement and that 3.3 destination-herd restrictions per year could be prevented for every 100 source herds tested pre-movement. The yield per pre-movement test can be increased by focusing on high-risk movements; however, this would result in a substantial decrease in the total number of potential restrictions identified.
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