This forum strand looks at the general issues involved in the bovine TB debate.
12 Oct 2012, 5:17 PM
There is a new website dedicated to providing unbiased information about bTB, its causes and methods of control. Lots of really useful information, statistics and graphs. On the home page are two graphs that give a good insight into some of the facts Defra would prefer us to ignore. The first one reveals that most cattle are slaughtered for many reasons - bTB comes low down the list. The second highlights the incidence of bTB infection over a period - it has increased steadily for over a decade, however, this increase statistically co-relates to the increase in cattle per herd and number of tests annually undertaken.
5 Oct 2012, 6:36 PM
KEY TB REPORT CONDEMNS WEAKNESSES AND FRAGMENTED CATTLE CONTROLS - PRESS RELEASE FROM BADGER TRUST dated 5/10/12
The Badger Trust circulates the keynote report summarised below which provides authoritative and independent support for its conviction that the UK agricultural industry is failing to observe tuberculosis restrictions imposed in its own interests.
There can now be no reasonable justification for slaughtering more than 100,000 badgers – a protected species – while such examples of mismanagement and even corruption are allowed to continue.
The final report of an audit carried out in the United Kingdom in September last year to evaluate the operation of the bovine tuberculosis eradication programme  concludes that the disease situation overall in GB is at best static and may be deteriorating in England.
However, the audit is at odds with the conclusion of the £50 million Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) of 1998-2007. The audit says wildlife culling is a significant element of the approved eradication programme, and that the lack of it remains the major obstacle to progress. However the RBCT report allowed that badgers were implicated but said categorically that killing them could make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control . It added: “Weaknesses in cattle testing regimes mean that cattle themselves contribute significantly to the persistence and spread of disease in all areas where TB occurs, and in some parts of Britain are likely to be the main source of infection. Scientific findings indicate that the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread contained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone”.
David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “The idea of culling is an outdated prejudice when the real problem, as it always has been, is cattle. The audit highlights the scandal of overdue tests and the need for prompt removal of infected cattle and inconclusive reactors from farms. "The group has clearly spent much time and effort on the cattle aspects, but has not re-investigated matters concerning badgers to the same degree, leading to a lack of balance. The reference to the delay in culling as a 'major' obstacle is grossly overstated”.
The executive summary in full:
The objectives of the audit were to assess the application of the national programme for eradication of bovine tuberculosis approved and co-funded by the European Union (EU), and compliance with EU rules related to the disease.
Official controls related to bovine tuberculosis, and the operation of the programme have been given a high priority by Government (it represents over 40% of the DEFRA animal health budget). Nonetheless, despite efforts to date, the disease situation overall in GB is at best static and may be deteriorating in England.
While the approved eradication programme is broadly applied as described, the audit identified a number of potential weaknesses. These include numerous movement derogations, pre-movement test exemptions (including extended time intervals between testing and movement), the operation of "linked" holdings over large geographical areas, incomplete herd testing and the operation of specialist units under restriction, which lacked the necessary bio-security arrangements.
Furthermore, despite efforts by the CA [competent authority] some of their key targets could not be met in relation to the removal of reactors from breakdown herds and the instigation of epidemiological enquiries.
There is a fragmented system of controls, involving a number of responsible bodies. This combined with a lack of co-ordination (particularly with Local Authorities) makes it difficult to ensure that basic practices to prevent infection/spread of disease (such as effective cleaning and disinfection of vehicles and markets) are carried out in a satisfactory way.
Many of the weaknesses have been identified by the CA, and enhanced controls have been incorporated into a pilot area (intensive action area in Wales) where the CA has removed movement test exemptions, "broken" links, increased test frequencies and sought to improve biosecurity by formal education of animal keepers. The CA will assess the lessons learned from this area, to determine whether the measures could be applied more widely in Wales and England.
Measures to prevent re-infection from other sources focus on the risk presented by wildlife (badgers). The CA maintains that the delay in implementing the proposed wildlife controls (i.e. a managed cull of badgers), which is a significant element of the approved eradication programme, remains the major obstacle to progress. Recommendations were made to the UK CA to address the shortcomings described in this report.
Interesting Guardian blog by Damian Carrington (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2012/oct/05/badger-cull-tb-cattle?newsfeed=true). It relates to the recent figures that reveal a reduction in bTB breakdowns in England. He asks: 'Is a belated tightening of measures to stop bovine TB spreading between cattle starting to bear down on the disease in England? That's what the latest government data suggests ...'
He also reveals a few more points from the EC report:
• 22% of all new confirmed TB case in cattle are first discovered at slaughterhouses, the anmials having come from "TB-free" herds.
• In some cases, milk from diseased cattle was not kept out of the human food chain.
• "Defra acknowledged there is no practical way to enforce the leaving of [infected] pastures vacant for 60 days on a routine basis."
• "Enforcement of animal disease control policies is fragmented across a number of bodies and weaknesses have been identified, particularly in relation to co-ordination between AHVLA and the local authorities."
• "The delivery of the programme is being undermined at present by resource constraints (particularly in local authorities) ... and inefficiencies caused by the delayed roll out of the new TB software."
5 Oct 2012, 1:12 PM
An article in the Guardian describes a catalogue of failures in how England's farmers prevent their cattle spreading TB between herds. These failures were uncovered by an official European Commission inspection.
Cattle in England must be regularly tested for TB, and those found to have the disease must be quickly isolated and then removed. But the EC report, based on inspections made in September 2011, found numerous "shortcomings", including missed targets on both the rapid removal of cattle with TB and the follow-up of missed tests, and "weaknesses in cleaning and disinfection at farm, vehicle, market and slaughterhouse levels, exacerbated by lack of adequate supervision".
The EC gave the UK €23m in 2011 for bovine TB control measures. Its inspectors found that the removal of cattle with TB was below the target of 90% in 10 days, and that in the first half of 2011 more than 1,000 cattle had not been removed after 30 days. They found that there were 3,300 overdue TB tests as of May 2011 and that "many" calf passports – used to track movements – were incomplete. They also found that only 56% disease report forms had been completed on time, with the authorities blaming lack of resources. Funding cuts were cited as the reason for the failure of local authorities to update central databases systematically.
The EC report stated: "Local authority surveys provided evidence that some cattle farmers may have been illegally swapping cattle ear tags, ie retaining TB-positive animals in their herds and sending less productive animals to slaughter in their place." There are 8.5 million cattle in Great Britain on 81,000 holdings, with 2.4m movements a year. In 2011, about 7% of herds were under restriction due to TB and 26,000 cattle were destroyed.
A Defra spokesman said: "Measures to reduce the risk of bovine TB being spread between cattle were strengthened this year as part of the government's plan to eradicate the disease in England, including tightening regulations around the movement and testing of cattle. Scientific evidence tells us that we cannot successfully eradicate bovine TB without also addressing the problem in wildlife, which is why a cull of badgers is needed." The government accepted most of the recommendations made by the EC inspectors.
An NFU spokesman said: "Cattle controls have been strengthened by Defra since this report was released. We understand steps may be taken to strengthen these in January 2013.
"We hope these moves, alongside the pilot badger culls, and the development of badger and cattle vaccines, will help control the disease and eventually eradicate it."
Jones said ministers must wait and assess the impact of tighter biosecurity: "There is some evidence from west Wales, where the measures have been tightened up, that TB in cattle is coming down. There needs to be time to see if there has been an impact, before going ahead with a massacre of badgers." Bovine TB in Wales, which has rejected badger culling, has fallen since 2008.
David Fisher, a Defra-funded TB inspector in Wales until 2011, said: "It is an open secret that isolation of [TB] reactors and inconclusive reactors is rare." Fisher said Defra's own database showed that in 2009 there was 20.8% non-compliance for bovine TB issues and that there was only one instance that year of a dairy farm being checked for compliance with an isolation notice.
Information from www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/04/farming-shortcomings-badger-cull-bovine-tb
20 Sep 2012, 2:34 PM
'Notable decrease in bTB' according to Defra. (www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/foodfarm/landuselivestock/cattletb/national)
Statistics released 12/09/12 reveal the following:
There has been a notable decrease in the incidence rate over the past 6 months, mainly as a result of an increased number of tests on unrestricted herds compared to last year. The AHVLA are currently carrying out a data checking exercise to validate these test statistics.
The provisional June 2012 incidence rate is 4.2%, compared to 6.0% in June 2011. However, care needs to be taken not to read too much into short term figures, especially as this figure includes a number of unclassified incidents. As such, the incidence rates are subject to further revisions as more tests and their results for the period are input.
The number of new herd incidents during the period January to June 2012 was 2,706 compared to 2,720 for January to June 2011. The number of tests on officially TB free herds was 41,656 in January to June 2012, compared to 34,667 in January to June 2011.
The number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered as reactors or direct contacts was 18,213 in January to June 2012, compared to 18,081 in January to June 2011.
14 Sep 2012, 6:29 PM
According to a report in the Farmers Guardian (http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/Badger-cull-sorely-needed/story-16860278-detail/story.html) the bTB cattle compensation system in England may be overhauled. The tabular valuation bovine TB (bTB) compensation scheme could be scrapped as part of radical changes designed to make the system more efficient and make savings. Farmers could have to organise and pay for their own routine TB tests.
The Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE) and the new Bovine TB Eradication Advisory Group (TBEAG) have started to consult with farmers to find new ways of working to tackle the disease.
AHWBE chairman Michael Seals said he was inviting anyone with an interest in TB – including farmers who have had the disease and those that have not as well as vets, hauliers, and advisers – to join the conversation and contribute new ideas about reforming the regime - against the backdrop of funding cuts.
Seals has acknowledged the proposals are to cut Defra’s animal health budget by £45 million, approximately 20%, by 2014/15. With bTB accounting for approximately 40% of the budget, cuts are coming and savings need to be made, he said. But he insisted the process would also be about finding more efficient and effective ways to tackle the disease, including giving more responsibility to farmers.
The changes will focus on TB service delivery, rather than policies like badger culling and TB vaccination, and will broadly cover four areas – TB testing, reactor removal and compensation, advice and insurance. The most controversial of these is likely to be TB compensation. Mr Seals suggested the days of the tabular valuation system, which he said was extremely expensive for Government, could be numbered.
A document outlining the areas for discussion suggests that instead of Government effectively buying reactor cattle frpm farmers, cattle owners could arrange reactor removal themselves and sell reactors to abattoirs for their ‘salvage value’ with a compensation ‘top up’ from Government. Mr Seals stressed that this was just one of the options being considered and that table valuations would only go if a better system could be found. Others options suggested include reducing tabular valuation compensation payments by a fixed amount, removing or reducing compensation for cattle brought into TB restricted herds or reducing compensation for the first reactors in a herd.
Owners of higher value cattle could, in addition, take out insurance to protect their assets, Mr Seals added.
Mr Seals added that farmers could also take responsibility for organising routine TB tests themselves, possibly with Government support in the form of money and administration.
“It may prove to be better for farmers. It is a different way of doing things so let’s explore it. Do we really need to have a structure where AHVLA calls vet and they are sent to farms and AHVLA pays for them?” he said.
Mr Seals wants the discussion to explore a concept of ‘supportive responsibility’ where the industry takes on some of the roles previously undertaken by AHVLA, with support from Government. He insisted that board was ‘open-minded’ and that no firm proposals had yet been made, which is why the board wants input from those with direct experience of the disease to shape the policy. For more information: www.defra.gov.uk/ahwbe/files/ahwbe-btb-callforviews-120910.pdf
14 Aug 2012, 6:33 PM
At the Pembrokeshire show NFU Cymru have said that 'draconian' cattle control measures implemented in an effort to 'eradicate' bTB are "strangling the industry" and causing dairy and beef farmers throughout Wales "severe difficulties". They want, instead, a balance between stopping the spread of bovine TB and running a cattle business. The Welsh government said it was working with farmers to try to help.
Of greatest concern were those herds that has had a cow possibly infected by TB as these farms cannot buy in cattle for at least two months.
Cattle can only move onto a TB restricted farm prior to the completion of a veterinary risk assessment and completion of a TB test, carried out 60 days after an infected animal has left the farm.
A suggestion was that farmers should have the opportunity to work closely with their own vets so that, subject to a risk assessment and the approval of suitable separation facilities on the farm, new animals can be brought in without having to wait at least two months.
A Welsh government spokesperson said: "The recent changes mentioned by the NFU are the result of an EU directive.
"They are designed to minimise the risk of spread of infection at a time when a herd is a particularly high risk and are being implemented across both England and Wales.
"However we are working to minimise the time holdings are under restriction by re-examining the management of persistent and recurrent breakdowns.
"We agree that farmers need specialist veterinary advice when dealing with a TB breakdown and are currently working with representative organisations and regional eradication boards to consider how best to increase the level of individual veterinary support available to farmers at what is a difficult time."
Info from www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-19254240
9 Jul 2012, 6:05 PM
Visit www.defra.gov.uk/animal-diseases/a-z/bovine-tb/ for the new bTB regulations. The changes were made after the European Commission warned the Government that loopholes in its cattle TB regime could jeopardise the UK’s annual £30 million of EU funding for its TB eradication programmes.
According to a report today in the Farmers Guardian, livestock auctioneers have warned that the new cattle movement rules that came into force 1 July could have the perverse effect of making cattle from clean areas less attractive to some buyers.
'The 30 day herd residency exemption is no longer permitted. This exemption had allowed animals that were resident on a holding for 30 days or less to be moved without a test, even if the 60-day period following a pre-movement test had passed.'
Chris Dodds, executive secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, said removing the exemptions would affect the way ‘buying agents’ who purchase cattle for feeders go about their business and would harm some farmers selling animals from clean areas.
'These agents often take cattle back to their holdings, from markets and/or farms, until a suitable consignment has been put together for delivery. The larger ones are often classified as one-year testing herds, because of the volume of movements on and off their holdings, even if they are in three- and four-year testing areas and have never had a TB breakdown.'
'Mr Dodds said the new rules permit a pre movement tested animal from a TB hotspot area to be moved ‘many times’ within the 60 day test window, including on and off these one-year testing farms.'
'But animals coming onto these units from a three- or four-yearly testing farm will now require a pre-movement test if they are moved on within 30 days.'
'Writing in Farmers Guardian this week Mr Dodds said the rule change was ‘penalising the clean areas of the country for being clean’, particularly those farmers selling store and breeding cattle from three- and four-yearly testing farms.'
“Unfortunately I can see pre movement tested animals achieving a premium price over those cattle that are exhibited from low risk four-yearly testing farms, simply because their onward movement is easier and has less expense associated to it,” he wrote.
“As a direct result of this many of the English buying agents may be forced to buy their cattle from one- and two-yearly parish farms in the future, in order to continue in business and offer their clients consistency of supply at a competitive price.
“This, of course, would result in cattle from what is perceived to be the high risk areas of the country being moved to a wider area of England.” 'He pointed out that a Defra’s impact assessment stated that the original 30 day exemption was permitted because ‘clear tested animals that spend only a short time on premises are at a reduced risk of becoming infected’ and, even if they were to become infected whilst on the premises, detection within one month is ‘highly unlikely’.'
'He concluded: “I hope that Defra will look again at their decision and find a more suitable outcome to this problem.” '
'A Defra spokesperson said: “Removing the 30 day herd residence exemption reduces the risk to farmers of new bovine TB breakdowns from untested cattle being moved between herds. The decision was not taken lightly and was only made after consultation.”'
'The Department insist removing the 30-day exemption reduces the risk of untested cattle triggering new TB breakdowns including in low TB incidence areas.'
2 Jul 2012, 5:47 PM
More bureaucracy for farmers as the new requirements came into effect from 1 July 2012.
Cattle compensation payments
Reduced compensation for TB reactor cattle from herds with significantly overdue TB tests. New cattle compensation ("table valuation") categories.
TB pre-movement testing exemptions. Ending of 30-day residency exemption for pre-movement testing. Pre-movement testing of cattle in high TB risk herds will be required for movements to agricultural shows if cattle will be at the show for more than 24 hours and/or housed at the showground. The exemption permitting movements within Sole Occupancy Authorities (SOAs) will be revised - for SOAs that span across the boundary of high and low TB risk areas, movements from holdings in high TB risk areas within the SOA will require a pre-movement test
Changes to Cattle Tracing System (CTS) links and Single Occupancy Authorities (SOA). No new SOA applications, or requests for the addition of new holdings to existing SOAs, will be approved.
No new CTS links, or the renewal of existing links when they expire, will be permitted if the link includes holdings in both high and low TB risk areas. Links between holdings in high and low TB risk areas that do not have an expiry date will also be phased out
"But when the majority of EU countries dont have a problem they dont know why they should support the UK bovine market."One of the most bizzare statements Ive ever heard.So lets get this straight.We may not be allowed to use the BCG vaccine in the UK because TB is not a problem in the other EU countries?Mind blowing!If you followed that argument to its logical conclusion,no vaccines would ever be used.And why is the president of the British Veterinary Association making such a bland and non committal statement?I dont think that if you asked most farmers whether they would prefer to vaccinate their cows,or to contiunue with this nightmare we have to go through on a regular basis,that too many would choose the latter.But it seems there are forces out there who dont want to give us that choice,or even for that choice to be publicised and come into the public domain.
18 May 2012, 7:21 PM
Live web debate at Farmers Guardian website today (www.farmersguardian.com), typically concentrating on the badger with very little mention of any of the other issues.
Of particular note were the pertinent comments by Michael Ritchie, Rethink bTB Press Officer;
'Some of us are left with the impression that obsessive concentration on badgers by unions and government is a decoy from the real issues. Why are the farming unions not demanding that EU law (which takes precedence over ours) banning cattle vaccination against BTB be repealed immediately, clearing the way for use of the BCG cattle vaccine and the DIVA test as soon as they are licensed? Even a voluntary scheme would reduce the number of cattle seized from farmers, without any adverse effects. Ask the Ethiopians who are already using the cattle BCG vaccine as they cannot afford, economically or politically, to slaughter cattle unnecessarily.'
And later he commented; ''Nick Fenwick is missing the point in his eagerness to stick to badgers. BCG will not be licenced unless and until effective. There is no reason the EU should not change the law in reciognition of this to allow the use of licensed vaccines. It can be used alongside any other policy and therefore cannot have an adverse effect.'
There was a rather apathetic response to this from Cartl Padgett, President of the British Veterinary Association, (a former president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association and former Chairman of Trustees of the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation.), who said;
'... we are talking about it and trying to make those changes (and hopefully they will be based on sound, scientific reasoning). But when the majority of the EU countries don't have a problem they don't know why they should support the UK bovine market.'
Yes, we agree, all they do is talk - about badgers mainly!
9 May 2012, 1:07 PM
According to a report in the Farmers Guardian today (hwww.farmersguardian.com/home/latest-news/farmers-will-be-hit-by-new-tb-measures-says-legal-expert/46786.article) a solicitor, specialising in agriculture, David Kirwan from North West law firm Kirwans has criticised the implementation of the recent tougher measures. He claims the measures create ‘yet more legislation and bureaucracy’ and believes it is simply a way of reducing compensation payments to farmers. The tougher penalties will add further to the burden for farmers trying to deal with bTB breakdowns.
Kirwan said: “While it is vital to find a way to reduce the spread of TB, the new measures will have a particularly harsh effect on farmers who are already under severe pressure. The last thing our farming industry needs at the moment is more regulations and bureaucracy – yet this is exactly what is happening. The new legislation is an ill-disguised programme to simply further reduce compensation to farmers. More and more demands are being placed on our farming community with no suggestions given as to how farmers are realistically expected to implement them.”
8 May 2012, 4:57 PM
We understand the new measures have been introduced by Defra because the European Commission had threatened to withhold £25 million of bovine TB funding.
2 May 2012, 6:54 PM
Defra has today announced further regulations to help reduce the risk of bovine TB being spread between cattle. The changes relate mainly to cattle movements and the compensation policy. They will take effect from 1 July 2012.
The changes are part of the government’s plan in their ongoing and futile efforts to eradicate the disease in England. The new regulations are supposed to remove ambiguities around scheme rules and anomalies and make the TB compensation system more transparent. New deterrents are being put in place to help deter late testing and to reduce disease spread risks for all cattle. The changes announced today include reduced compensation payable for TB reactors identified at tests which are significantly overdue, as well as changes to cattle movements. A sliding scale of compensation has been introduced. When a test is overdue by more than 60 days, 25% of the compensation will be deducted, with 50% for tests that are more than 90 days late, but not over 180 days, or 95% for tests that are overdue by 180 days. There are also new compensation categories which include a new category for young pedigree beef animals (aged 0-6 months). Dairy calved animals category (pedigree and non-pedigree) will be split into two age bands - up to 7 years, and over 7 years. Pedigree compensation rates will only be payable for animals with breeding potential, and only owners of animals with full pedigree certificates will receive the pedigree compensation rates. Compensation will only be payable for cattle with the legally correct ID documentation, and only if a cattle passport is produced before the affected animal is removed for slaughter. As well as changes to the compensation scheme, Defra has made changes to the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) links and Sole Occupancy Authorities (SOAs), saying that, from 1 July, it will not approve or renew existing CTS links or SOAs applications if they include holdings in high and low TB risk areas. It said that in future all CTS links and SOAs may be abolished if all of the Farming Regulation Task Force recommendations on simplifying livestock movement arrangements are implemented. The exemption permitting movements within SOAs will also be revised, with owners of SOAs that include holdings in high and low TB risk areas being required to pre-movement test animals moved from the high-risk holdings within their SOA. Other regulation changes include those made to pre-movement testing exemptions, which will see the removal of the 30-day residency exemption, as well as revisions to the exemption covering cattle movements to agricultural shows. High TB risk herds (that is, herds with a routine TB testing interval of one or two years) will be required to undergo pre-movement testing for movements to shows if cattle will be at the show for more than 24 hours and/or housed or kept inside at the showground. Defra said that a key objective of the pre-movement testing policy is to reduce the risk of TB becoming established in new parts of the country. It said that it is necessary to ensure cattle are tested clear of the disease before being moved from high TB risk areas.
13 Feb 2012, 6:44 PM
New report Feb 2012 from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22304898
The influence of cattle breed on susceptibility to bovine tuberculosis in Ethiopia.
By Vordermeier M, Ameni G, Berg S, Bishop R, Robertson BD, Aseffa A, Hewinson RG, Young DB.
Source Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, TB Research Group, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB, United Kingdom.
A new TB passport sticker scheme has been introduced in Wales. Operating on a voluntary basis the initiative enables the farmer/buyer to identify when an animal last had a clear TB test.
The North Wales TB Regional Eradication Delivery Board piloted the scheme. Farmers were supplied with stickers to put on individual cattle passports to record when the animals were last TB tested. Following agreement from the Carmarthen and Cardiff Regional TB Eradication Boards the scheme is being rolled out across Wales. The TB tester provides the farmer with a sticker for each clear tested animal that they plan to move/sell in the next 60 days. The farmer sticks this the passport and after filling in the date of the test, the name of the veterinary practice/tester who conducted the test and finally signing it.
Peredur Hughes from the Caernarfon Regional board said:“Since the Passport Stickers were introduced in North Wales twelve months ago they have become an invaluable tool to the farming industry. It is a quick and efficient way to identify when cattle have been TB tested, whether going through the mart or sold from farm to farm.”
Dyfrig Siencyn, Chief Executive of Farmers Marts which runs the livestock auction at Dolgellau said:“Since their introduction the TB test stickers on the passports have proved extremely popular by vendors and buyers. Buyers can quickly see when the animal was tested so that they can fit in with their own testing arrangements”
Ore-movement testing is a legal requirement in Wales and the sticker scheme is entirely voluntary
13 Nov 2011, 6:50 PM
Some more info on the above from our friends at the Yorkshire Post www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/at-a-glance/main-section/world_on_brink_of_cow_tb_breakthrough_1_3963031
The Roslin Institute at Edinburgh University, behind Dolly the cloned ewe, has spent five years searching for the bits of genetic code which allow some cows to stay uninfected when bovine TB hits a herd. And results have been “promising”.
The institute got £500,000 from the British Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to look into the possibilities, but Roslin team leader Liz Glass revealed yesterday that they had run out of money on the brink of a breakthrough.
They believe that they have identified significant “markers” in the genetic coding of TB-resistant Holstein Friesians.
This means that animals could be selected to breed resistant offspring. But they needed to check their findings.
Professor Glass said: “Promising is a fair summary of the position we are at.”
With the help of Queen’s University, Belfast, the research took place in Northern Ireland, which has a lot of bTB, like much of southern England and Wales.
Samples were taken from cows in infected herds and those which failed TB tests were compared with similar animals which passed.
About 800,000 possible variations in genotype were looked at by the researchers in each case, and the similarities and differences sifted until the likeliest ones had been pinned down.
Prof. Glass added: “It is a complex disease and we are never going to achieve animals which are completely resistant.
“But we could offer a useful additional tool for controlling it, which would have an accumulative effect over the years.”
She said the Holstein findings would not necessarily translate into rules for other breeds but should be a helpful indicator of where to start looking.
8 Nov 2011, 6:31 PM
According to a report in Farmers Weekly (http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/08/11/2011/129957/Bovine-TB-resistance-gene-found-in-cattle.htm#.TrlMuvqHOAA.twitter) farmers may be able to select cattle with some level of resistance to bovine TB. Researchers have fond a genetic link.
Work at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh found some degree of bovine TB resistance is inherited, with genetic markers associated with resistance also identified.
Liz Glass who led the research said the results mean it could be possible to selectively breed cows which are more resistant to the disease.
“Over the last two years it has become clear there is variation in cattle response to TB and that there is a substantial genetic component,” she said.
The research involved more than 1,000 Holstein Friesian cattle in Northern Ireland.
The ‘control’ group were exposed to the same environment as the ‘cases’ yet the ‘control’ group tested negative to the skin test whereas the ‘cases’ tested positive to TB in both the skin test and the lesion test. All animals were from the same/similar herds and were of the same age and breed. When genetic information from the two groups were compared, Professor Glass found cattle that contained certain markers were more than double at risk of contracting bovine TB.
Dairy Co are now using some of the quantitative data from the BBSRC-funded study to see whether they could add in TB resistance to the existing breeding indexes.
Professor Glass said depending on the pilot trial, farmers could have access to breeding information in the next two to three years. However, she added that this wasn’t a complete solution to controlling the disease but an additional tool to help control bovine TB and reduce the force of infection.
7 Nov 2011, 6:45 PM
Email from MG dated 6/11/11:
This gives a pretty good over view. www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/Leptospirosis/GeneralInformation/lepto005GeneralInformation/
6 Nov 2011, 6:34 PM
Email from Prof PT dated 5/11/11:
Yes, cattle with Johnes can cross react. Johnes is caused by Mycobacterium paratuberculosis. However, that is why the test has two injections to minimize this. Johnes disease is not a big problem with the skin test as practised....
But hidden away there is something more alrming....70% of herds have leptospirosis....this is a nasty zoonoses that kills. In fact Andy Holmes is one of the more famous victims (it killed Andy Holmes, British double olympic champion in rowing. bTB can't claim such a high profile victim!) of this disease. However why should DEFRA get too alarmist about a disease that really kills people when they can be alarmist about one that does not!
As I said before, not only is bTB control a waste of resources, I do believe it acts as a distraction and drains resources away from real veterinary public health problems that are quietly ignored!
6 Nov 2011, 6:04 PM
Email dated 4/11/11 from a Glos farmer commenting on above post and article at www.farmersguardian.com/home/livestock/livestock-features/putting-an-end-to-the-hidden-cost-of- disease/42448.article
'....It is here Derek [cattle farmer] hopes to see the fruits of the health screening, with all farms signed up to the scheme to be clearly identified in the sales catalogue. “I’m hoping there will be a premium paid for high health status calves next year; people don’t want to buy in disease. I think it is definitely the way forward, whether marketing pedigree or commercial stock.”
He also hopes for healthier, faster growing calves. “The samples found a bit of BVD, so we’re now vaccinating as a result. There was also a little bit of Leptospirosis, so we’re trying to decide whether it is worth vaccinating for that as well – we’re doing a second test to find out how bad the problem is.”...'
What? No reaching for the gun to kill all the wild animals that can carry these diseases too? It just shows how rational cattle farmers can be providing there's no EU regulation to addle the brain and dull the senses!
“Of the farms tested for BVD, 60 per cent proved positive, with 36 per cent having IBR, 70 per cent Leptospirosis and 43 per cent Johne’s,” says Ed Nancekivell, BMLI co-ordinator". “There is a frightening level of disease out there, which reinforces the need to confirm the health status of these units so action can be taken to minimise the damage to profitability."
Interesting - as far as I understand Johness disease (also caused by Mycobacteria) causes cattle to react to skin test for bTB - could be case for other diseases listed too. 43% are claimed to have former so is this leading to misleading bTB figs too?
Defra annual TB statistics for 2010 reveal vast majority of herds remained officially TB free (OTF) and unrestricted during that reporting period. Over 90% of all herds traded freely and there are now marketing opportunities to trade restricted animals.
17 Oct 2011, 1:02 PM
We are led to believe that bovine TB is rife and a great problem in an increasing number of hot spot areas. This is simply not true if you read the Government's consultation paper from last year which states that '...93.6% of herds in England were free of bovine TB at the end of 2009. The figure was 85.7% in the so called hotspot of south west England. So, most herds of free of bTB.