UK rules aim to stop spread of bovine TB

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

UK targets "biggest animal disease threat facing the nation"
UK targets "biggest animal disease threat facing the nation"
The UK has clamped down on the “biggest animal disease threat facing the nation” with updated bovine tuberculosis (TB) rules.

The aim is to stop the spread of bovine TB which analysis suggests could spread to areas such as Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire, Merseyside and West Yorkshire by 2022.

TB can be picked up by consuming unpasteurised milk and dairy products from infected herds and by handling the carcasses of dead carriers through cuts or by not washing hands.

Industry benefit

Stamping out infection in areas where the disease is spreading, known as the ‘edge’ area, will benefit farmers and livestock businesses by an estimated £27m over 10 years, according to Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

David Heath, farming minister, said: “Bovine TB is a highly infectious disease that is devastating our dairy and beef industry and continues to spread across England at an alarming rate. We must do everything we can to crack down on what is the biggest animal disease threat facing the nation.”

Edge area measures include immediate skin testing of any herds in Cheshire and Derbyshire within a 3km radius of a farm with a TB outbreak, and another test after six months.

October introduction

The measures will be introduced in October with all farms in the edge area already on compulsory yearly TB testing, and compulsory testing before the movement of cattle from their farm.

Herds that have their TB Free status suspended following skin testing will need to show two further clean tests and those that have their TB Free Status withdrawn will require gamma-interferon blood testing.

“We are taking tough and decisive action on TB at the frontier of this disease to stop and then reverse the spread,” ​added Heath.

“The measures we are introducing this year will help protect vast areas of England from the scourge of TB and take a significant step towards our goal of eradicating TB within 25 years.”

Other measures include breaking of Cattle Tracing System ‘links’ between the edge area and high risk areas, which allow farmers to move cattle between two areas without reporting the movement.

Peter Jones, president of the British Veterinary Association​ (BVA), said: “Targeting specific measures at the edge area surrounding the high incidence areas is a sensible approach if we are to stop the advancing spread of this disease further north and eastwards.
“The edge area strategy recognises the role of both cattle movements and wildlife in the spread of bovine TB, and the need for extra effort to understand the dynamics of infection in cattle, in badgers, and between the two species.”

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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