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Tighter Measures to Tackle Bovine TB Introduced

23 October 2012

UK - Tighter control measures to reduce the risk of bovine TB spreading between cattle are to be introduced as part of the drive to eradicate the disease in England.

The strengthened rules, which will come into force from 1 January 2013, include changes to the surveillance testing regime and cattle movement controls.

Agriculture Minister David Heath said: “We need to stop the spread of bovine TB, which led to the slaughter of 26,000 cattle last year alone.

“These strengthened measures, alongside our badger control policy and the ongoing development of vaccines, are about reducing risks from all possible sources of TB infection to help control the disease and eventually eradicate it.”

England will be divided into two cattle TB testing frequency areas. Annual TB testing of farms will be extended in the south-west, west and central England, and East Sussex to include adjoining areas which are at greatest risk from geographic spread of TB as well as the existing high risk areas where most TB cases are found.

The rest of England will be placed on four-yearly testing. Most TB breakdowns in this area are caused by the movement of infected cattle from the high risk areas. However, surveillance around TB breakdowns in the four-yearly tested area will be enhanced and herds at higher risk of TB infection will continue to be tested annually.

There are also new rules about cattle movements:

  • In all cases, farmers who have had a case of TB in their farm will not be allowed to bring new cattle in until the rest of the herd has been tested for TB and a vet has carried out an assessment;
  • Farmers now have 30 days, down from 60, to move cattle that test negative for TB from a TB breakdown farm;
  • Approved Quarantine Units (AQUs) are going to be phased out as they are considered too risky. AQUs are quarantine units on farms for calves from TB breakdown farms. From the new year existing AQUs will not be able to take on any more calves; and
  • TB free cattle are sent to Approved Finishing Units (AFUs) from TB infected farms for fattening before they are slaughtered. The conditions in these will be strictly monitored to maintain high standards and prevent the spread of TB. Some operators could even see their licences removed for serious breaches.

David Heath added: “The Government and the farming industry are committed to doing all they can to halt the spread of TB.

“We already have strong measures in place to tackle transmission between cattle – including compulsory testing, slaughter of infected animals and movement restrictions on infected herds. However, as set out in the Bovine TB Eradication Programme in July 2011, we are always looking to improve our methods and will strengthen controls where necessary.”

TB testing intervals will now be set at the county and not the parish basis. This is in line with EU law. Using a larger administrative unit than the parish is better epidemiologically and reflects a clearer picture of the distribution of the disease in England.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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