This forum strand looks at the general issues involved in the bovine TB debate.
25 Oct 2019, 12:50 PM
Gatcombe Farm project secures TB-free status
A new approach to disease control is being taken on a dairy farm in Devon. This article is well worth reading and could well provide a proper, long term solution for farmers. It involves taking out infective cows and minimising exposure to slurry. The trial has seen the herd attain TB-free status after six years of persistent breakdowns. It is known that the Mycobacteria that cause bovine TB is present in slurry/cattle manure and housed cattle so this trial, which certainly seems to be working, could be a way forward.
The farm in question is Gatcombe Farm, run by Robert and Thomas Reed.
They have been involved in a five-year project overseen by Dick Sibley of West Ridge Veterinary Practice, Tiverton, in partnership with Queen guitarist and animal rights supporter Brian May.
Badger Culling and Bovine TB in Cattle; A Re-evaluation of proactive culling benefit in the randomized badger culling trial
This damning report has been published in the Journal of Dairy and Veterinary Sciences in May 2019. Yet more evidence proving that badger culling is a waste of time, money and effort. The validity of the large scale badger culling, now rolled out to so many other counties in England, is, once again, being questioned.
Wrexham dairy farmer slams 'draconian' TB regulations as calving cows are slaughtered in his yard
A DAIRY farmer from Wrexham claims Bovine TB regulations are too “draconian” after he watched three calving cows slaughtered on his yard.
Les Morris, who farms at Cadwgan Hall Farm, Bersham, was left heartbroken after a contractor working for the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) arrived to kill three of his herd whose pregnant state meant they were unable to be ferried to a Cheshire slaughterhouse along with eight other animals.
Amid distressing scenes one of the calves was born naturally minutes before his mother was killed, although an attempt to save another calf failed.
The interpretation of the Bovine TB rules is hitting the farming community hard and farmers like Mr Morris claim animals are being killed unnecessarily.
He has now lost 29 of his diary herd, but says all tests carried out so far have failed to establish TB in his herd.
The slaughtered animals were identified as “reactors” after further blood tests carried out by agricultural health officers flagged up the risk they could be carrying the disease.
But Mr Morris said: “The whole herd has passed the severe skin test, but they decided to rely on blood tests which are not as accurate as the skin tests. They took 11 cows from me this morning, a lot of them heavily in calf.
“One had calved 20 minutes before the lorry arrived on the yard, two have been slaughtered with the calves kicking inside them. This is the worst we’ve ever had - it’s draconian ways as they have shot calving cows. The calves were kicking for their last as their mothers were shot. Luckily one was born 20 minutes before.”
Bovine TB, the infectious disease that mainly affects cattle, is mostly identified using a tuberculin skin test as clinical signs of the disease can take time to appear.
When TB is identified in a herd affected cows are destroyed and movement restrictions are placed on farms - Mr Morris’ farm will be subject to those for 60 days before retesting.
“It’s affecting all the farming community, but the testing needs to be far more accurate. It is a mess and they are just slaughtering willy nilly,” added Mr Morris, 64, who runs the farm with his brother, Alan, 66.
“There are pockets of TB that need to be sorted out, but they appear to be in the wrong areas and shooting the wrong cattle.
“It’s a third of our diary cows gone. They (DEFRA and APHA) don’t appear to be making any headway whatsoever.
“They haven’t confirmed one case of TB over a three-year period. When they slaughter them they do a visual test at the slaughter house which have all proved negative.
“This herd all passed the skin test in November.”
The farmer, who will receive compensation for his slaughtered animals, hopes the surviving calf will be able to “attach” to a foster mother among the rest of the herd.
South Wales Animal Save SHOT IN THE HEAD AND LEFT TO SUFFER. South Wales Animal Save was sent harrowing footage of a horrific incident that happened in Pembrokeshire West Wales on 26th October 2017. We have not been able to release the footage until now, due to an ongoing investigation by the relevant authorities which has now closed. Note that the area this cruelty & complete neglegence took place in, is a high risk area on the Bovine TB map. In fact the whole of Pembrokeshire is. The incident shown is inside this area. Please note that another witness was frantically trying to contact the relevant authorities whilst this was being filmed. On 26th October 2017, whilst out walking, a member of the public had found a dead cow in a field who'd been shot. To her horror she also found another cow who was dying. He had also been shot in the head but was still alive. He was bleeding from the head & was paralysed, but gasping & struggling with every breath. The witness tried contacting the relevant authorities. Half an hour later a man arrived with a tractor then went away again and finally returned with a small hand pistol. He then shot the dying cow in the head. The cow was then dragged across common land. There were other animals and dog walkers in the area. We dont know for sure how long he'd been suffering prior to being finally killed, but it was over 30 minutes.
The case had been reported to all the relevant agencies which is why it has not been possible to make this public until now. We have been informed that NO legal prosecutions will take place. That "Actions to stop incidents like this happening again have been put in place". The incident was reported at the time to the RSPCA, The Local Authority,The APHA and the Welsh Assembly.
Farmers claim that badgers are responsible for the spread of Bovine Tb in cattle. Wales are now about to have a badger cull. Killing cattle who have responded Tb positive, in fields within high risk Tb areas & dragging their bleeding corpses across common land is sheer madness. The farmers and their total lack of hygiene and scruples are to blame for the spread of the infection, not the badgers . Vikki Fauna
Individual action plans will be developed for farms with long-term bovine TB issues.
Other measures involve deeper and more sensitive testing of herds.
But Wales' chief vet stressed there would be no "large scale, indiscriminate cull of badgers" - and any infected badgers found would be dealt with humanely.
On Tuesday, the Welsh Government unveiled new plans which include dividing up Wales into different areas with low, intermediate and high incidence of the disease.
Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and counties alongside the border with England will be classed as "high", while north west Wales is classified as "low".
A tailored approach will be developed to reflect the varying disease conditions and risks. The aim is to try and avoid the disease from spreading to north west Wales and to work towards eradicating it in areas of high prevalence.
During a 12-week consultation, the Welsh Government will seek views on the measures that should be applied to each area.
For farms where there are persistent breakdowns, individual action plans will be developed in partnership with farmers, vets and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
The European Commission is providing a big chunk of money to the UK administrations to help cover the costs of tackling bovine TB. The EU has made nearly £23 million available to help UK administrations tackle bovine TB in cattle.
In total, the Commission has announced €32m (£23.6m) for UK programmes to help eliminate animal diseases and zoonoses and strengthen protection of human and animal health.
But the vast majority of the money, €31m (£22.8m), is earmarked for dealing with bovine TB, including testing of herds, compensation for farmers and the purchase of vaccines for badgers.
The remainder will help tackle avian influenza in poultry and wild birds, salmonella and transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).
The four UK programmes, which the Commission is co-financing with domestic administrations, are among 130 selected from across the EU worth €161m (£119m) in total.
The UK has been allocated half of the total funding, about €62m (£46m), made available to tackle Btb across the EU.
The Commission stressed the funding it provides only relates to combatting bTB in cattle and not to how the UK combats the disease in badgers, which it said was ‘a matter for the UK authorities’.
Scottish scientists have been involved in a ground-breaking project to help dairy farmers breed cows for better resistance to bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Roslin Institute and SRUC, have developed a new genetic index called the TB Advantage breed.
The index, which will be published on January 19 at the British Cattle Conference, gives an indication of an animal’s genetic susceptibility to bTB, highlighting those which may be more prone to infection, or those which have a higher degree of resistance to the disease.
The index will allow farmers to breed better TB resistance into their herds by selecting bulls with a high score for TB advantage. Almost all Holstein bulls – both daughter-proven and young genomic sires – will have an index and genotype measured female Holsteins will also be scored for the index.
More than 650,000 cattle records were analysed as part of the process of developing the index,
Why would any rational farmer buy cattle from a bTB high risk area?
Experts are warning that farmers need to get a grip on cattle movements if they want to keep bovine TB out of Cumbria. Figures released by Defra suggest that while the disease isn’t spreading north, outbreaks of the disease are being blamed on bought-in cattle to the county.
The report says although very few cases are reported in cattle north of Cheshire, the risk posed by cattle movements is high, with 400 to 500 live animal movements taking place in Cumbria from other parts of England every month.
But National Farmers’ Union Cumbrian council delegate Alistair Mackintosh said it was easy to say the disease was being brought into the county in the back of a wagon.
“We have to trade,” he insisted. “We have to buy and sell cattle. We need the right information from Defra and we will be in a much stronger place.”
Local farmers are being advised that the M6 corridor is a potential problem when it comes to cattle movements, and they need to be aware of the risks.
“It appears TB hasn’t yet spread northwards into cattle populations beyond Cheshire, although cases in Lancashire and Cumbria have occurred because of bought-in cattle arriving in those counties,” said the Defra report.
Although Cumbria, once classed as bovine TB-free, is regarded as a ‘low-risk’ area, the numbers of premises/farms where a case has resulted in withdrawal of their TB-free status is six so far this year. This compares with four in 2013, and six last year. Currently there are 18 farms under restrictions in the county.
An Animal and Health Plant Agency (APHA) spokesman said: “Cumbria remains a low risk area for bovine TB. Each year there are a small number of TB incidents in the county, typically caused by bought-in cattle.
“Farmers in low-risk areas such as Cumbria are encouraged to make informed choices when buying in cattle to reduce the chances of bringing the disease on to their farms.
“After purchase they are also advised to keep new animals separate from the main herd until they have tested negative for TB, and to consider post-movement testing.”
A consultation on a proposal to amend the Tuberculosis (England) Order 2014 – which would require post-movement testing of cattle in low risk areas – closed last month.
Last year more than 3,000 farms were affected nationally by new occurrences of TB, with each breakdown costing an estimated £20,000 to the taxpayer and more than £10,000 to farmers.
The Government has a 25-year plan to eradicate the disease. A five-point TB biosecurity plan, and online TB information hub have been launched.
Brampton vet David McCrea, with Capontree Veterinary Practice, said removing confidentiality issues was a good thing for the county.
He said: “We can go online and there is a map which shows the area where the outbreak is. You need nose-to-nose contact for the animal to contract the disease. It is a bacteria.
“You need to be aware if your neighbour has an issue.
“We are in an area where wildlife is not infected, and we want to ensure that we do not bring cattle in that would infect wildlife. Once we have that situation we are in trouble.”
A new website has been launched for farmers to find practical advice on dealing with bovine TB (bTB) on their land. It involves a five-point biosecurity action plan and a poster campaign is also included in the initiative.
The measures are being promoted by organisations such as Defra, the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the National Farmers' Union. Recommended actions include asking for a herd's TB history before buying cattle, and taking steps to minimise wildlife access to cattle, their feed and housing. http://www.tbhub.co.uk/
20 Nov 2015, 10:16 AM
Intensive farming link to bovine tuberculosis
Intensive farming practices such as larger herd size, maize growth, fewer hedgerows and the use of silage have been linked to higher risk of bovine TB, new research has concluded.
A study by the University of Exeter, funded by BBSRC and published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, analysed data from 503 farms which have suffered a TB breakdown alongside 808 control farms in areas of high TB risk.
Dr Fiona Mathews, Associate Professor in Mammalian Biology, who led the study, said: "TB is absolutely devastating for farming, and it's essential that workable solutions are found. In the worst hit areas, farms are frequently affected over and over again with crippling consequences. If lower intensity production means better animal health, it offers a sustainable long-term strategy in high risk areas."
The last few decades have seen radical changes in farming practices. Half of British dairy farmers have gone out of business since 2002. Those that remain have larger herds and greater productivity: average herd size increased from 75 animals in 1996 to 133 in 2014 (a rise of 77%), and the annual yield increased from 5,775 per cow in 1995 to 7,535l per cow in 2013 (a rise of 27%).
The team found that farms with herds of 150 cattle or more were 50% more likely to suffer a bovine TB outbreak than those with herds of 50 or fewer. Patterns of crop production and feeding were also important, with the risks increasing with practices linked with higher productivity systems. For every 10 hectares of maize - a favourite food of the badgers that play a role in transmitting the disease - bTB risk increased by 20%. The feeding of silage was linked with a doubling of the risk in both dairy and beef systems. Landscape features such as deciduous woodland, marshes and hedgerows were also important. For example, on farms with 50km of field boundaries, each extra 1km of hedgerow was linked with a 37% reduction in risk. This is likely to be because there is less contamination of pasture by badger faeces and urine in hedgerow-rich areas. Marshland was associated with increased risk, possibly as a secondary effect of infection with liver fluke - a disease linked with wet environments and which interferes with the diagnosis of bTB in cattle.
Dr Mathews said: "To beat TB, we need to ensure our approach is robust and evidence-based. This is the first large-scale study to link a range of landscape-scale habitat features and farming practices with bTB. All of the effects we have found are additive, so changing several linked aspects of the farming system could potentially make a big difference. Farmers are already aware that biosecurity in the farmyard can help reduce the risk of bTB in cattle. We have now shown that wider environmental management is also important. By finding out more about these links, we hope that we can help eradicate this terrible disease."
Moves in Wales to publish information on bovine TB-infected farms have been blocked, for the time being at least.
In September, the Welsh Government announced, following a consultation, it was following England and going ahead with plans to publish information on cattle herds affected by TB.
The intention was to provide the information on a website, with further details due to be announced in November.
But one party has proposed an annulment of the Order that would have given the Government powers to make information about bTB publicly available.
This means it will now need to be debated and voted upon in the Welsh Assembly before it can become law.
Welsh Government that it would not support the proposals unless it provides an assurance any information is shared in a ‘sensitive and secure’ way.
Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, Llyr Gruffydd, said it was important information on TB-infected farms is made available to the farming community to help reduce the risk of it spreading. It would also benefit the veterinary community, he said.
“But, like many stakeholders who responded to a recent consultation, I feel this should be done in a sensitive way that only provides the information to those who require it,” he added.
The DEFRA consultation period on the proposal to increase cattle testing closes on Friday 23 October 2015.
1 Cattle transmission accounts for the greatest majority of disease spread (around 80 - 90%), therefore infected cattle must be identified and removed to prevent cattle passing on the disease to other cattle
2 The skin test (SICCT) is not very sensitive and can miss many infected animals - according to Defra this is about 1 in 5 at standard interpretation, meaning infected cattle are still in the herd and can pass on disease to other cattle either in the herd or to other herds through markets, sales, shows, etc
3 Following from 1 & 2 above; Intensive and repeat testing has been shown to be effective in Wales and in England during the Area Eradication Strategy of the 1950's, 60's - and testing needs to be ramped up.in England to equate to the level in Wales.
4 It is very difficult to rid large herds of infection, which means large herds remain persistently infected, therefore intensive and repeat testing, including gamma testing is needed to clear persistently infected herds of infection.
5 It is vital that cattle are tested pre-movement to try and reduce the risk of them taking disease to other herds and areas.
The new rules mean specified non-bovine animals - including alpaca, sheep and farmed deer - will be subject to TB controls where incidents are disclosed.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said the move would ensure Scotland was fully prepared to deal with any TB outbreaks that might arise. Scotland has been officially free of the infectious disease since 2009. The Scottish government said it had no plans to introduce a routine TB testing regime for non-bovine animals.
It added that the new powers would only be used where a TB incident was disclosed - for example through a post-mortem examination.
The controls will also give the powers to provide keepers of these non-bovine species with statutory compensation for animals slaughtered as a result of TB.
TB eradication in Wales is an ambitious, achievable long term objective, and is it essential to chart progress towards our goal of a TB-Free Wales. For a number of years we have published monthly two key headline statistics - the incidence of TB (number of new breakdowns), and the number of cattle slaughtered, both expressed as a 12 month rolling average. But the TB picture is Wales is far more complex than that, and we have been working on a new way of reporting a wider range of figures, to reflect regional differences, and to provide transparent, easily accessible information to all concerned.
We are now delighted to publish a new TB Dashboard to present data in an understandable and visual way, charting our journey to TB eradication on a quarterly basis. Data will be presented in graphical form, and also on a map.
In developing the TB Dashboard we have selected a suite of key TB measures for Wales: the number of new, closed and open TB incidents (for Wales as a whole, and by area) the relative incidence, herd prevalence and animal level risk breakdown recurrence rate the percentage of officially TB-Free herds (A definition of the terms used is available in the glossary).
ENGLAND COULD ERADICATE BOVINE TB WITHOUT KILLING BADGERS!
Bovine TB control tactics currently employed by the Welsh and Scottish authorities - which don’t involve badger culling - are leading the way in bTB disease reduction, whilst those employed by England are not, according to new research from Queen Mary University of London. Using publicly available data researchers at Biological and Chemical Sciences were able to determine the effectiveness of current Bovine TB management strategies; the study found declining numbers of infections in previously uninfected herds and more TB free herds in Scotland and Wales. Should their current programmes continue those countries are likely to eradicate the disease while the same is not true in England. Not only did more testing lead to effective control of the disease but further proof of its importance was shown by spikes in infections and infected herds when there were interruptions to testing after the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak in the UK.
www.farminguk.com/News/England-could-eradicate-Bovine-TB-without-culling-new-research-shows_36997.html The team noted that the Scottish programme of risk-based testing had led to the reduction in the number of tests there meaning that testing not only works but is cost-effective. However, the most rapid decline in infections was recorded in Wales since annual or even more frequent testing was applied.
The researchers also found increases in new incidents in the winter months when cattle are more likely to be housed closer together. This will be partly due to the higher number of tests carried out in the winter but it is in line with other evidence showing increases in human TB infections in winter which are attributed to crowding and lower vitamin D levels. Dr Aristides Moustakas, said: “It is clear that the Welsh policy of frequent testing up to every six months and the Scottish policy of risk-based surveillance are producing reductions in the both the incidence and prevalence of TB in cattle.
Professor Matthew Evans, said: “It is clear that testing cattle frequently is the most effective way of reducing Bovine TB. Farmers and policymakers should not ignore this evidence which is based on the government’s data.” Humane Society International/UK’s Professor Alastair Macmillan welcomed new research. Macmillan was formerly at DEFRA (2003-2007) where he led the team which provided scientific advice to government and policy makers on animal health and welfare (and particularly on bovine TB), as well as managed the Bovine TB, Animal Welfare and Endemic Diseases Research Programmes.
Professor Alastair Macmillan, veterinary advisor, Humane Society International/UK, said: "This new paper provides extremely strong evidence of what many experts in veterinary disease control have known for many years - that it is crucial to test cattle as frequently as possible in order to control bovine TB. The Queen Mary researchers have shown without doubt that killing badgers will have little effect, whilst employing the policies of Wales and Scotland, where badgers are not culled, will continue to have a dramatic impact on reducing TB in cattle. "Frequent cattle testing is particularly important as the sensitivity of currently available diagnostic tests is not very high, meaning that cattle incubating TB are not detected and are allowed to remain in the herd to infect others over the following months. These cattle are by far the most common reason why cattle herds suffer repeated TB breakdowns, not badgers. The government must heed this evidence and stop wasting time and resources on killing badgers to no effect. All efforts must instead be focused on far more frequent cattle testing and strict cattle movement control. How much more research and scientific evidence does this government need before it listens to the rational facts?"
The team at QMUL used publicly available data to determine the effectiveness of current Bovine TB management strategies; the study found declining numbers of infections in previously uninfected herds and more TB free herds in Scotland and Wales. Should their current programmes continue those countries are likely to eradicate the disease while the same is not true in England.
Defra's free Bovine TB advice offered to 233 farmers in the cull zones has been taken up by only 10 farmers - is Bovine TB such a big issue then? Are farmers really interested in controlling Bovine TB or has it become just an excuse to kill badgers?
Yorkshire and the North East farmers are frustrated. Of utmost concern to farmers in Yorkshire is the postponement by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of a consultation document which was due to be published last week. The document was to outline proposals to strengthen cattle controls in England, and crucially for the region’s farmers, the introduction of post-movement testing for cattle coming into the county from ‘high risk’ and ‘edge’ areas.
At present cattle can be brought to Yorkshire - a ‘low risk’ area - from parts of the country where the disease is more common, only if animals are declared disease-free in tests carried out before they are moved. Herds in the low risk area are tested for bovine TB once every four years.
Richard Findlay, regional livestock board chairman for the NFU said farmers were frustrated.:
“We are sitting ducks waiting for the disease to arrive if we are not careful.
“We have a low incidence of the disease in the whole of the low risk area but cattle which later come down with TB are still getting through the net. We have high hopes that post-movement testing will mop these ones up, because at the moment we are coming upon these incidences by chance through routine tests.”
At present cattle can be brought to Yorkshire - a ‘low risk’ area - from parts of the country where the disease is more common, only if animals are declared disease-free in tests carried out before they are moved. Herds in the low risk area are tested for bovine TB once every four years.
He said the NFU had postponed meetings with farmers, which had been set up in anticipation of new TB eradication measures being put out for public consultation by Defra.
“We have a great situation here in terms of the disease, with healthy wildlife and those post-movement tests won’t just protect the cattle, it would keep it out of the wildlife.”
The NFU’s county chairmen are writing to their local MPs to push the issue to the top of the agenda, he said.
Defra would not be drawn on how soon post-movement testing would be formally consulted on.
'Cattle keepers’ guide to safeguarding health' The aim of this handbook is to provide cattle farmers with information and advice on six disease.
The Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Group is committed to helping the industry raise the already high standards of animal health and welfare in Wales. Through good husbandry practices, adoption of high welfare standards and disease prevention measures (biosecurity), we can minimise the likelihood of livestock contracting or spreading disease.
This handbook is as a quick reference guide to six important endemic cattle diseases:
To request a copy of the guide please email WAHFG@wales.gsi.gov.uk or call 0800 5283300.
26 Mar 2015, 9:42 AM
According to the Cattle Health and Welfare Report Bovine TB is way down the lists of top health and welfare concerns for cattle so why are so many resources thrown at it? It is sixth on the list for dairy herds but doesn't appear at all for beef herds!
The High Court has rejected a farmer's appeal against his conviction for falsifying the results of a bovine TB test and ordered him to re-pay over £31,000 in costs and compensation to the Welsh Government.
In March 2012, Mr Gary Davies of Tyllwyd Farm, Dryslwyn, Carmarthen was convicted at Llanelli Magistrates Court of interfering with the TB testing of 8 cattle in January 2009 in order to produce false reactor animals.Mr Davies was also sentenced to 200 hours unpaid community service and 4 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months.
9 Dec 2014, 9:45 AM
Sharing the location of TB infected farms The WAG is proposing change to the Tuberculosis (Wales) Order 2010 to allow us to publish information on cattle herds infected with bovine TB
Start of consultation: 08/12/2014 End of consultation: 30/01/2015 We believe that by publishing the location of TB breakdown herds, awareness of the risk will improve and encourage farmers to take additional precautions to protect their herds from TB.
The Welsh Ministers will make a final decision on whether to change the Tuberculosis (Wales) Order 2010 after fully considering the responses to the consultation.
How to respond
Please submit your comments by 30 January 2015, in any of the following ways:
Post TB Team Welsh Government Cathays Park Cardiff CF10 3NQ