Fears that bovine TB could be heading north

Bovine TB is endemic in major parts of the South West, and there is growing concern that if the disease is left unchecked, it could spread northwards to Lincolnshire and West Yorkshire.

Tough new rules to halt the spread of bovine TB and extra funding for badger vaccination are being introduced.

Stamping out infection in areas where the disease is spreading, known as the ‘edge’ area, will save farmers and livestock owners an estimated £27million over 10 years by limiting the impact of bovineTB on their businesses.

The edge area includes Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, and parts of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and East Sussex.

New 'edge area' measures include:

  • Immediate skin testing of any herds in Cheshire and Derbyshire within a 3km radius of a farm with a new TB outbreak, and another test after 6 months.
  • Herds that have their TB Free status suspended following skin testing will need to show two further clean tests.
  • Herds that have their TB Free Status withdrawn will all require gamma-interferon blood testing, which is a more sensitive test for spotting infection.
  • Breaking of Cattle Tracing System ‘links’ between the edge area and high risk areas, which allow farmers to move cattle between two areas without reporting the movement.
  • More funding for badger vaccination trials in the edge area. Applications can be made for a share of a £250,000 fund to cover up to half the costs of the first year of new vaccination projects.
  • New projects by the AHVLA to estimate likely locations of badger populations in the edge area, and to assess the rate of TB infection in local badgers using post mortems of animals killed in road traffic accidents.

“BovineTB is a highly infectious disease that is devastating our dairy and beef industry and continues to spread across England at an alarming rate. We must do everything we can to crack down on what is the biggest animal disease threat facing the nation.

“We are taking tough and decisive action on TB at the frontier of this disease to stop and then reverse the spread. The measures we are introducing this year will help protect vast areas of England from the scourge of TB and take a significant step towards our goal of eradicating TB within 25 years.”

– Farming Minister, David Heath

The new measures will be introduced in October 2013. All farms in the edge area are already on compulsory yearly TB testing, and compulsory testing before the movement of any cattle from their farm.

“We cannot allow bovineTB to continue to spread and condemn more farmers to the fate of dairy and beef herds in the south west that live in constant fear of the disease. The edge area measures are tough but necessary and could provide significant savings to farmers over the next decade if we can contain and push back the frontier of TB.”

– Michael Seals, Chairman of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England