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Cattle and bovine TB

 Added by  Patty (Guest)
 29 Sep 2009, 7:38 PM

This forum strand looks at the general issues involved in the bovine TB debate.

A MAJOR veterinary investigation is underway after a number of herds across Britain tested positive for bovine TB following a dispersal sale from a Cumbrian dairy herd.
More than 100 animals from a Cumbrian dairy were sold at the end of February at a market in Cheshire to buyers from across England, Wales and Scotland.
After some of the cattle sold were found to have tested positive for bTB, AHVLA launched a nationwide operation to trace, isolate and test all animals from the sale, alongside increased surveillance in surrounding herds.
The incident has generated significant concern among Government vets and the farming industry and raised fresh questions about the effectiveness of TB surveillance in England’s four-year testing areas, where pre-movement testing is not compulsory.
The disease has been confirmed at the Cumbrian farm which sold the cattle and it has been placed under movement restrictions. TB testing of neighbouring holdings within a 3km (1.9-mile) radius is underway.
An AHVLA spokesman said: “We are aware of a number of TB-positive cattle cases across Great Britain linked to the sale of dairy cattle from a herd in Cumbria.
“AHVLA has taken robust and rapid action to identify all animals originating from this herd so they can be isolated and tested for TB.”
He said it was too early to comment on the likely number of herds involved, or how this could have happened with a herd originating in the relatively clean four-year area.
“This incident highlights how serious a problem TB is for all cattle farmers, regardless of where they farm,” he said.
NFU North West regional director Robert Sheasby said: “We’ll continue to be involved in supporting our affected members in Cumbria and across the country and working with AHVLA. Investigations into the outbreak are at an early stage.
“It would be premature to speculate as to the origin of infection in the Cumbrian herd.”
The incident will prompt further debate about cattle TB controls as Defra publishes its long-term TB eradication strategy for England, which covers TB testing and movement controls and includes a proposal for comulsory post-movement testing in the TB Low Risk Area.
CATTLE owners across Wales are being advised to prepare for new Welsh Government rules aimed at helping to eradicate bovine TB.
Cattle moving within Sole Occupancy Authorities (SOAs) will not be exempt from pre-movement testing from September 30.
The change is being made at the request of the European Commission for it to be part of the UK’s on-going TB eradication plan and adhering to the new rules enables Wales to receive its share of the €31 million provisionally awarded to the UK to help tackle the disease.
Full article at: http://www.farmersguardian.com/home/latest-news/welsh-government-aims-to-help-eradicate-bovine-tb/62166.article
Enhanced management of persistent TB herds (for full text visit http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla-en/2014/02/03/enhanced-management-of-persistent-tb-herds/
Herds suffering long-term bTB breakdowns will in future be considered for a more tailored and hands-on management approach by AHVLA, in partnership with farmers’ private vets, as a standard business as usual activity in England and Wales. This follows feedback from stakeholders and recognition that a more proactive approach was necessary.
From 3 February 2014, herd breakdowns lasting more than 18 months will be subject to enhanced case management procedures aimed at helping herd owners to regain their Officially TB Free (OTF) status as quickly as possible and reducing the risk of future breakdowns. Measures may include additional investigative work to identify factors contributing to persistence of infection followed by targeted interventions to address the issues identified.
This approach seeks to:
Enhance support for cattle keepers in working towards regaining OTF status
Identify and deal with the factors causing persistent infection
Reduce risks posed to contiguous premises
Reduce the impact on farming businesses and general taxpayers
Monitor and review the effectiveness of measures applied and use the skills and knowledge gained to inform management of future breakdowns.
Wales’ system for compensating farmers who lose cattle to bovine TB could be changed amid claims that payments are too high.
Compensation is currently based on individual on-farm valuations but Welsh farm minister, Alun Davies, is considering adopting the system in operation in England. In 2006 the Welsh government backed away from a plan to introduce tabular valuations but Mr Davies is now revisiting the issue.
He said it was time for a compensation system that was fair to both cattle keepers and taxpayers. The current system has led to criticism that some farmers are paid twice the true value of their cattle.
“I have reviewed TB compensation arrangements and have decided to consult on the introduction of a table valuation system in Wales. I believe there are distinct advantages to adopting this system, particularly as it would speed up the removal of diseased animals from farms and reduce the risk of further TB spread,” he said.
The EU Audit and Task Force recently criticised the level of TB valuations in Wales compared with published market prices. “By not recognising this criticism we could jeopardise EU co-financing of certain bovine TB control measures,” said Mr Davies.
The consultation will run until 22 April. Visit http://wales.gov.uk/consultations/environmentandcountryside/tb-compensation/?lang=en
Info from: http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/29/01/2014/143039/welsh-review-bovine-tb-compensation-payments.htm
Welsh Government clamping down even further on Bovine TB.
As part of the TB eradication programme, cattle keepers in Wales are required to get their cattle tested every 12 months, but now further penalties have been introduced; 1% off the Common Agricultural Payments for farmers who are between one day and three months late for their TB test.
This penalty is in addition to cattle keepers who are currently penalised 3% off their CAP when found at cross compliance inspection to be between three and 12 months late.
The penalty is increased to 5% of the payment if over 12 months late.
Onfo from: /www.farmersguardian.com/home/livestock/livestock-news/welsh-government-continues-to-clamp-down-on-bovine-tb/61257.article
Wales’ commitment to eradicating Bovine TB recognised by Europe (http://wales.gov.uk/newsroom/environmentandcountryside/2013/131219tb/?lang=en).
The EU has approved the Wales TB Eradication Plan 2014 which means that Wales will receive a share of the provisional 31m Euros awarded to the UK to help it stamp out the disease.
The 2014 Plan sets out TB eradication policies that will be implemented during the year and builds on measures contained in the 2013 Plan and on Strategic Framework for Bovine TB Eradication in Wales.
It outlines the work underway as part of the Intensive Action Area badger vaccination project, the recently announced Badger Vaccination Grant , Cymorth TB Pilot and the review of TB compensation arrangements in Wales. It also includes commitments to strengthen cattle control measures in place through the continual monitoring of the remaining Pre-Movement Testing exemptions.
Now badgers are being vaccinated isn't it about time cattle this is an option for cattle too?
Farmers Guardian (/www.farmersguardian.com/home/hot-topics/bovine-tb/cattle-farmers-facing-big-fines-for-overdue-tb-tests/61071.article) has reported on the new fines being introduced for CATTLE farmers who fail to complete bovine TB tests on time.
Under new rules applying in England from January 1, farmers could lose up to 5% of their Single Payment in the form of cross-compliance fines if their tests are overdue.
According to agricultural lawyer David Kirwan, a total of 6,650 out of 21,398 tests were overdue in 2012, suggesting the change of policy could have serious implications for farmers.
He said the penalties would bring ‘further misery to cattle farmers already unjustly punished by Bovine TB regulations’.
Mr Kirwan, head of the agricultural unit at law firm Kirwans, said: “This is the latest in a seemingly relentless series of punitive administrative and financially swingeing measures on farming families.
“Farmers need practical support not a bullying, stick-wielding master hell bent on inflicting more misery and hardship. It is an already over-regulated industry. This will make financial conditions even more difficult, prompting some farmers to quit beef and dairy production.”
He stressed TB testing was important but added that ‘common sense and flexibility over paperwork and deadlines is also important’.
“I want Defra to show an understanding of farmers’ hardship and offer practical support. More demands are being placed on farmers with no suggestions as to how they are realistically expected to implement them,” he said.
RFI 5710 Defra refuse to provide information to Rethink bTB on Btb epidemiology reports. What do they have to hide?
Thank you for your request for information about farmer TB questionnaires in Gloucestershire, which was a narrowed down version of your initial request. As you know, we have handled your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). We apologise for not getting this request to you within the extended deadlines, which was down to a breakdown in the RFI process between Defra and the relevant executive agency holding the data.
I can confirm that AHVLA does hold the information that you have requested, but we have decided that it should be withheld under section 40(2) (third party personal data) of the FOIA, as the information constitutes personal data relating to third parties. Section 40(2) of the FOIA states that personal data relating to third parties is exempt information if disclosure would breach the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).
We consider that disclosure of this information is likely to breach the first data protection principle in Schedule 1 to the DPA, which relates to the fair and lawful processing of personal data, in two ways. First, disclosure would not constitute ‘fair’ processing of the personal data; second, disclosure would not satisfy any of the conditions for data processing set out in Schedule 2 to the DPA Therefore, we have concluded that this information is exempt from disclosure under section 40(2) of the FOIA.
Moreover, it is estimated the amount of staff time that would be spent anonymizing the materials requested would exceed the statutory time and cost limits of £600. Section 12(1) of the FOIA allows us to refuse a request for information if we estimate that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit, which currently stands at £600. I attach an annex giving contact details should you be unhappy with the service you have received.
If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me
From January farmers in England who allow TB tests on cattle herds to become overdue will face cuts to farming subsidies under a zero tolerance approach announced by Defra.
The size of the penalty will depend on the severity of each case with most penalties up to 5% of their payments.
For information in 2012 there were 6650 overdue TB tests in England out of a total 21,398.
Further measures to strengthen the cattle controls are proposed and the seven week consultation closes on 10 January 2014.
The proposals included in this consultation support the Draft Strategy to achieve official TB free status for England in 25 years and add to the improvements to cattle controls introduced over the last two years.
The consultation (visit:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/bovine-tb-new-control-measures-tackling-transmission-between-cattle-herds) proposes:
• Cattle from higher TB risk herds moving to and from common land will be required to be pre-movement tested;
• Phasing out the practice of de-restricting parts of TB-restricted premises so that the entire farm is given the same TB risk status;
• Sharing the location details of TB breakdowns so farmers can better manage the disease risks to their herds; and
• That in exceptional circumstances where TB testing an animal is not safe, the animal will be culled without a TB test.

A guidance note can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/bovine-tb-information-note-strengthening-cross-compliance-tb-controls) .
The most recent statistics from Defra reveal a drop in the rate of bovine TB - new herd incidents (www.gov.uk/government/publications/incidence-of-tuberculosis-tb-in-cattle-in-great-britain).
'Whisper it quietly, Defra: TB cattle slaughter rates down by nearly 10% on 2012' was the headline in the Farming monthly National.
As MPs debated the disastrous Badger Cull Pilots in Westminster yesterday, without the presence of Owen Paterson, DEFRA released its latest statistics on bovine TB in UK cattle herds.
From the start of this year, under pressure from the European Commission, the Government has forced farmers to tighten down on biosecurity controls, cattle movements and TB testing. As a result, we have seen a steady decline in the rates of TB in cattle compared to the same period in 2012.
Comparing the latest DEFRA figures from September 2012 to September 2013, there has been an overall drop of 5.9% in new TB cases and a 9.5% drop in the number of cattle slaughtered for TB.
Info from: www.farmingmonthly.co.uk/livestock/animal-health/7998-whisper-quietly-defra-tb-cattle-slaughter-rates-nearly-10-2012/
According to Defra's own figures, there were a massive 127 million cattle movements between farms since 1998. The numbers of movements more than quadrupled between 1999 (3,373,646) and 2010 (13,690,294). Around 40% of the national herd is currently moved from one premises to another each year. The UK seems to be the country with the most cattle movements. No wonder diseases spread.
Bovine TB has forced Warwickshire farmer, Jon Parker, out of beef production on his farm estate after his herd succumbed to bovine TB again. He manages 1,500ha Ragley Home Farms, near Stratford-upon-Avon and has decided “enough is enough” after his farm was struck down with TB for a fifth time last month.
“We sent a group of five animals to slaughter to bring back the meat to sell in our own butcher shop on the estate,” he said.
“The vet checked them over and found TB lesions over the back of one of their throats. Immediately, the farm was shut down.
“With other decisions that are going on with our business, we have decided ‘enough is enough’ – we can’t keep going on trying to battle this disease.
“Therefore, we will be stopping beef production on the farm and focusing on the sheep – we have 1,000 breeding ewes – and the arable.”
Ragley Home Farms is located on the Warwickshire/Worcestershire border, counties considered at the edge of “TB hotspots”, according to the government.
During the past four years, Mr Parker has witnessed the TB “creeping towards” his farm.
“There were a lot of dairy herds in the area 12 years ago, but there is about one out of 20 left now,” he said. “There were a few beef farms, too, but there has been a huge decline. People just couldn’t keep TB out.”
Mr Parker, who is a regular contributor to Farmers Weekly’s Arable Farmer Focus section , built up a 60-cow suckler herd at Ragley.
But during the past four years cow numbers have been steadily falling after he lost the bull and about half the cattle in a previous TB outbreak.
He started bringing in continental breeds to fatten for slaughter, which had been working well until the farm succumbed to TB again.
Now there are just 16 cattle left on the farm and as soon as they are finished they will be taken to slaughter and not restocked. The farm shop, Ragley Estate Meats, will source locally produced meat.
A badger sett is located about 100m from the farm building, but Mr Parker does not know whether the sett is infected with TB.
“When it snows, you can see the badger tracks going from the sett straight to the farm building,” he said.
“We are trying to make the farm as badger-proof as possible. We used to make clamp silage, but we have since switched to round-baled wrapped silage and tried to feed animals off the floor in troughs.
“We also have a huge deer population. We know there is TB in that because traces of TB have been found within the deer carcasses.”
Mr Parker is neither for nor against the badger cull, but believes the government is justified in exploring it as a control measure.
Info from: http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/06/12/2013/142312/bovine-tb-forces-farmer-out-of-beef-production.htm
Recent tweet by Rethink says Rethink Bovine TB
My neighbour has started buying stock from Tb hotspot again. He should have learned from last time when he ended up on stop for several yrs.
Not sensible - shouldn't this practice be stopped to ensure all farmers act responsibly?
Whole genome sequencing provides researchers with a better understanding of bovine TB outbreaks.
The use of whole bacterial genome sequencing will allow scientists to inexpensively track how bovine tuberculosis (TB) is transmitted from farm to farm, according to research presented at the Society of General Microbiology Autumn Conference.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow, working in collaboration with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland, sequenced the genomes of 147 M. bovis samples, collected over a decade of outbreaks in Northern Ireland. By combining the genomic sequences of the bacteria with information about when and where the sample was isolated, in addition to data on the movement of cattle from farm to farm, the researchers were able to build a detailed forensic map of bovine TB spread.
The results showed that, even on a scale of few kilometres, M. bovis samples from neighbouring farms were more closely genetically related than geographically distant farms that had had cattle moved between them. This finding confirms that, while long distance spread via cattle movements plays a role, local transmission mechanisms appear to drive the spread of the disease, although the researchers are unable to determine what these are at the present time.
For more info: http://www.newsfix.ca/2013/11/19/whole-genome-sequencing-provides-researchers-better-understanding-bovine-tb-outbreaks/
DARD has now published its long awaited and much anticipated Northern Ireland biosecurity report. There’s a link to the report on this page:
Defra has announced the introduction of a zero tolerance policy re the bTB testing of cattle (Wales did this some years ago!). In a written ministerial statement, the environment minister told MPs that farmers who were late in testing their cattle will see their subsidies reduced. And he said there could be even further restrictions on cattle movement.
Culling wild cattle is also to be considered - apparently as a last resort, wild or untestable cattle will be culled as a precaution.
Defra has agreed to the introduction of a voluntary code of practice on TB surveillance and herd accreditation for alpaca and llama owners. The code will also include pre- and post-movement TB testing and the recording of camelid movements.
There will also be a consultation on statutory compensation for alpacas and llamas that are slaughtered for TB control in a bid to encourage owners to take a more proactive role in dealing with the disease. In addition, Defra has announced a wider consultation on TB control measures for non-bovine species.
SHUTTING THE COWSHED DOOR AFTER THE PLAGUE GOT IN is the response from the Badger Trust's in its latest Press Release.
The Badger Trust welcomes the recent flurry of announcements of measures under consideration to control transmission of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) between cattle and between camelids and alpacas, but deplores the 20-year delay in producing them. Crucially Defra is proposing to impose a zero tolerance policy on English farmers with overdue herd tests [1].
David Williams, chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “Overdue tests have been a scandal for decades. The cattle industry has stubbornly resisted sensible restrictions on cattle management since the catastrophic rise in bTB began in the early 1990s. Farmers used badgers as scapegoats while they dug their heels in against better regulation of markets and abattoirs, more frequent and improved testing, pre-movement testing and comprehensive biosecurity on farms.
“If the measures we have listed here had been in place when the cattle toll averaged a thousand a year it would never have risen to its present level of almost 30,000.
From next year farmers who have not arranged for bTB surveillance and check tests to be carried out by the due date will face cuts to their subsidies. The level of reduction will depend on the length of time the test was overdue.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson, admitted in a Commons statement on November 28th that he was addressing a number of “long-standing weaknesses in our bovine TB controls”. Some of these weaknesses were strengthened a year ago, but only at the insistence of the EU. They included annual testing in the south west of England and zoning restrictions.
He proposes consultations on various proposals rather than acting on any of them – action that should have been taken years ago. He also proposes the pre-movement testing exemption for movements of cattle to and from common land. Also, the lifting of bovine TB restrictions on parts of a restricted holding could be phased out. In future the whole of a holding would be either restricted or officially TB free at any one time. Farmers would be “encouraged” to share details of the disease history of any cattle they sell so buyers would be finally better able to manage any disease risks.
Biosecurity study
Northern Ireland has published the results of a two-year study of farm biosecurity measures [3] to assess badger- and cattle-related risk factors for bovine TB breakdowns and the associated biosecurity measures. It recommends further investigation of specific areas such as the potential role of contiguous spread across farm boundaries and greater exploration of the role of cattle movement is recommended. The report also says farmers should be encouraged to use established biosecurity measures to separate badgers and cattle. The majority of farm boundaries in the study area would have facilitated nose-to-nose contact with cattle on neighbouring farms and the survey team recommends closed herds or pre- and/or post- movement bTB testing and isolation of purchased animals.
Alpacas and llamas
In yet another much-needed improvement Defra is “seeking the views” of alpaca and llama owners by January 10th 2014 about how more could be done to prevent the spread of bovine TB in and among herds [4], but any measures will still only be voluntary, so failing to close yet another gap in security.
[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bovine-tb-information-note-strengthening-cross-compliance-tb-controls?dm_i=1NFN,20QTC,906LDO,79T48,1
[2] http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/November-2013/28%20November/6-BovineTB.pdf?dm_i=1NFN,20QTC,906LDO,79T49,1
[3] http://www.dardni.gov.uk/tb-biosecurity-study.pdf?dm_i=1NFN,20QTC,906LDO,79T4A,1
[4] http://www.farmersguardian.com/home/hot-topics/bovine-tb/defra-announces-new-measures-to-combat-tb-in-camelids/60476.article?dm_i=1NFN,20QTC,906LDO,79T4B,1
Welsh Assembly will be consulting re cattle compensation arrangements in Wales. The proposal is re the introduction of a table valuation system in Wales that would be based on average market prices for pre-determined cattle categories. The consultation document will be issued in 2014.
More info: www.wales.gov.uk/bovinetb
Whole genome sequencing provides researchers with a better understanding of bovine TB outbreaks.
The use of whole bacterial genome sequencing will allow scientists to inexpensively track how bovine tuberculosis (TB) is transmitted from farm to farm, according to research presented at the Society of General Microbiology Autumn Conference.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow, working in collaboration with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland, sequenced the genomes of 147 M. bovis samples, collected over a decade of outbreaks in Northern Ireland. By combining the genomic sequences of the bacteria with information about when and where the sample was isolated, in addition to data on the movement of cattle from farm to farm, the researchers were able to build a detailed forensic map of bovine TB spread.
The results showed that, even on a scale of few kilometres, M. bovis samples from neighbouring farms were more closely genetically related than geographically distant farms that had had cattle moved between them. This finding confirms that, while long distance spread via cattle movements plays a role, local transmission mechanisms appear to drive the spread of the disease, although the researchers are unable to determine what these are at the present time.
Hannah Trewby, who is presenting this work says, “The inclusion of whole genome information in our data will give us unprecedented insight into how bovine TB spreads, and will help us to develop better control methods for the disease.”
The role of infected wild badgers in spreading bovine TB remains controversial. This work will help to clarify the role that badgers may have in spreading the disease and continue to build a sound scientific evidence base on which control measures can be built.
Professor Rowland Kao, the Principle Investigator of the project, explains, “Our results suggests that the establishment and local persistence of the pathogen in cattle has a distinct spatial signature — we believe that explaining this signature is the key to quantifying the role that badgers play in the persistence of bovine TB in Britain and Ireland. While we do not yet have sufficient data to be definitive, it is clear that whole genome sequencing of the bacterium will play an important part in solving this puzzle. Given the extensive collection of samples already collected from cattle and badgers, we are optimistic that this approach will help accumulating the right scientific evidence over the coming years to tackle this important problem.”
The Farmers Guardian (http://m.farmersguardian.com/60073.article?mobilesite=enabled_ has reported that livestock auctioneers have warned that Defra’s voluntary TB risk-based trading scheme will be difficult to operate until a comprehensive centralised cattle database becomes available. Hardly surprising really as animals from a high risk bTB area will no doubt be valued less than those from low risk areas and if a central structure is not in place...
Chelford market, in Cheshire, became one of the first markets to deploy the initiative during a sale of native breeds on Saturday.
Prior to the sale, vendors were asked to voluntarily provide information to inform buyers on three aspects of their TB status:
Date of last pre-movement test.
Date of the last routine herd test.
The date on which herds that have had a TB breakdown were last declared Officially TB Free (OTF).
The information was uploaded by market staff and presented during the sale on a second screen in the ring.
Gwyn Williams, a Partner at the Chelford auctioneers, Frank Marshall, said around 60 per cent of vendors provided the information asked of them.
He said: “It is start and it is important that it is done but, to be honest, there are major issues for us in terms of uploading the information from various different sources. Also we can’t compel farmers to give the information to us as it is a voluntary schemes.”
He said the market would continue to offer the service for breeding stock sales but fears manually uploading the data takes a long time and will put a big strain on staff. While the animals were pre-entered and catalogued in advance for Saturday’s, there not be time to upload the information on many standards when cattle arrive only minutes in advance.
He said the initiative would only be truly workable, in terms of being manageable and ensuring the relevant information is presented, when the sort of database in place in other EU countries is available in the UK.
“The UK is years behind most countries in Europe with the database. If you go to Ireland or Spain you scan the passport and it links into the database with all the information you need on the health status of the animal. We have been asking for it for years.”
Mr Williams said a handful of markets were starting to implement the initiative and others would follow as they put the systems in place. Livestock Auctioneer Association (LAA) members are installing new standard software to ensure the way the information is presented is consistent in markets that take part in the scheme.
The voluntary initiatives stems from a recommendation of the industry-led Risk-Based Trading Group, which called the introduction of a ‘comprehensive, accessible database as the ideal solution to support a successful risk-based trading scheme’.
However, it acknowledged that the development of such a database is ‘not a quick or simple task’ and therefore recommended a phased introduction of risk-based trading while Defra and the industry look into the feasibility of a database.
LAA executive secretary Chris Dodds said: “These are early days but we need to look towards establishing a national database that can be easily accessed and provide a comprehensive risk assessment of the bTB status of all animals.”
Ian McGrath, a farmer from Knutsford, in Cheshire with a long personal history of TB in his herd and a member of the Defra-industry TB Eradication Advisory Group (TBEAG), attended the sale. He said, with the scheme being voluntary, the onus will be on buyers to demand the relevant information.
He said: “This is the first stepping stone towards farmers taking more interest in where they buy their cattle from and starting to ask more questions. I see it that those farmers who offer the information will see a benefit. It will be for purchasers then to start questioning the vendors who don’t offer the information.”
He likened the initiative to the time when dairy farmers were asked to provide information mastitis cell counts. Buyers soon started questioning the motives of those who chose not to provide the data, he said.
Regional in-depth media programme investigating news items of interest, first broadcast October 29th, 2013. This one is about the increase of bTB north and east of England (where badgers are not believed to be implicated). Despite the stricter cattle movement controls it is disturbing to hear people here talk about breaches in cattle movements and deliberate fraud, failures re bTB testing ...
SHUTTING THE COWSHED DOOR 23 YEARS TOO LATE says the Badger Trust in its press release today.
A long overdue Government initiative -- the national "risk-based cattle trading scheme" -- set up to give buyers more information about the dangers of bringing bTB cattle into their herds, is being launched next month in Cheshire. (HOWEVER, it is only a voluntary scheme.)
Badger Trust says it is appalling that the bovine TB (bTB) status of cattle at market is only now to be openly displayed to buyers. It is no less appalling that this scheme, announced in May, is still only voluntary with farmers being merely “invited” to use it and only so far at a single market [1].
Vendors attending the sale of native beef breeds at Chelford Market on November 9th will be invited to fill in a form giving information such as when their animals were last tested for bTB and whether they are from four-year or one-year testing farms
Such a policy, obligatory and nationwide, could have moderated or avoided the damaging escalation over the last 23 years through cattle-to-cattle and farm-to-farm transmission. Now, thousands of badgers could be killed as scapegoats in misguided culling operations.
David Williams, Chairman of the Badger Trust, said: “This is another glaring example of how government has failed to get a grip on this industry which blames everyone but itself for its own difficulties. Even now Ministers dare only to invite farmers to look after their own interests instead of telling them to do what they should be doing in everyone else’s interests. The necessary industry-based movement and other restrictions introduced progressively since January were at the insistence of the European Union, not at the request of the cattle industry or the Coalition”.
1. http://www.laa.co.uk/news-detail.php?RecordID=119&dm_i=1NFN,1Y4U0,906LDO,700K2,1#
'Age-dependent patterns of bovine tuberculosis in cattle', report published September 2013 available from http://www.veterinaryresearch.org/content/44/1/97
Bovine tuberculosis (BTB) is an important livestock disease, seriously impacting cattle industries in both industrialised and pre-industrialised countries. Like TB in other mammals, infection is life long and, if undiagnosed, may progress to disease years after exposure. The
risk of disease in humans is highly age-dependent, however in cattle, age-dependent risks have yet to be quantified, largely due to insufficient data and limited diagnostics. Here, we estimate age-specific reactor rates in Great Britain by combining herd-level testing data with
spatial movement data from the Cattle Tracing System (CTS). Using a catalytic model, we find strong age dependencies in infection risk and that the probability of detecting infection increases with age. Between 2004 and 2009, infection incidence in cattle fluctuated around 1%. Age-specific incidence increased monotonically until 24–36 months, with cattle aged between 12 and 36 months experiencing the highest rates of infection. Beef and dairy cattle under 24 months experienced similar infection risks, however major differences occurred in older ages. The average reproductive number in cattle was greater than 1 for the years 2004– 2009. These methods reveal a consistent pattern of BTB rates with age, across different population structures and testing patterns. The results provide practical insights into BTB epidemiology and control, suggesting that targeting a mass control programme at cattle between 12 and 36 months could be beneficial.
According to The Grocer (http://m.thegrocer.co.uk/Article/350097) the dairy industry is weighing a new plan to breed TB-resistant cows. Farmers may be able to breed TB-resistant cows in a groundbreaking new project developed for the dairy industry. Over the next 18 months, scientists will rank bulls for their resistance to bovine TB .
DairyCo – which is funding the project – said it expects to select bulls with resistant genes by 2015, with their daughters entering the milking herd in 2018 at the earliest.
It said the project was a welcome development for the industry, although it cautioned that it would result in just “one useful weapon in the armoury” to tackle BTB, rather than a complete solution.
Fears of bovine tuberculosis is prompting more cattle across Greater Manchester and beyond in the North West to be quarantined following an increase in the number of northern herds under disease restrictions as revealed in the statistics released from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) earlier this month.
Since 2008, Greater Manchester herd numbers affected by the disease have remained low, typically alternating between zero and one. However, from May 2012 this figure has risen to seven herds placed under restriction. An AHVLA spokesperson has said that Greater Manchester remains a low incidence area for bovine TB, with only three cattle herds of approximately 350 deemed Officially TB Free Withdrawn (OTFW) by the agency in the last six months. All of these cases came as a result of inadvertent infection from cattle brought in from high risk areas, despite annual testing and movement restrictions - which clearly do not work.
“There is no evidence of bovine TB infection in wildlife in the Greater Manchester area,” the spokesperson said.
Lancashire and Cheshire herds affected have risen from five to 23 restricted herds in Lancashire and from 80 to 155 in Cheshire. Apparently Lancashire was a bTB hotspot 70 years ago, towards the end of the Second World War, and the disease was eradicated then without killing any badgers.
Free workshops on bovine TB for farmers
Free one-day workshops are being held to provide farmers with advice and practical tips on the new government measures aimed at reducing bovine TB infection on farms in 'edge areas' - see below for dates.
The meetings are sponsored by DEFRA and the Animal Health and Veterinary.
They will be an opportunity for local farmers and those involved in the livestock industry to keep up to date with the new legislation and learn practical measures to minimise the risk of infection on farm.
Experienced vets and a badger ecologist from the AHVLA will lead the meetings. They will cover a range of topics, including the latest news on TB, an update on the legal requirements, new edge measures and how TB testing works.
Dates and locations for the meetings include: 
Cheshire (east) - 2 October
East Sussex - 9 October
Derbyshire - 15 October
Leicestershire - 15 October
Warwickshire/Northants - 16 October
Cheshire (west) - 21 October
Oxfordshire - 22 October 
Hampshire - 23 October
All meetings start at 6.30pm (except Derbyshire 11.30am) and are free to attend. A light supper will be provided. For more details and to book your place at the meeting please contact the FarmSkills team on 01765 608 489 / farmskills@xlvets.co.uk
There will also be an opportunity to hear about real-life experiences of TB and understand how badger ecology works.
Counties in the edge area include Cheshire, East Sussex, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Berkshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire.
Info from: http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/23/09/2013/141180/workshops-on-bovine-tb-39edge-area39-strategy.htm

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