DEFRA TB strategy for England needs more work

The Tenant Farmers Association believes that DEFRA’s TB eradication strategy falls short in some areas and contains unjustified and damaging measures in others.

TFA National Chairman Stephen Wyrill said “In general the TFA supports DEFRA’s TB eradication strategy. We welcome the balance between cattle movement controls and wildlife control. We also support the use of badger vaccination in the edge areas to help stem the spread of disease in wildlife. Ultimately, a cattle vaccine must be the solution but until we get there, other cattle measures and wildlife culling, as set out in the strategy, will be necessary. However, there are some areas where the strategy could be enhanced and improved”.

“The TFA has long supported annual TB testing. We agree with the comments made on BBC Countryfile by Christianne Glossop, the Chief Vet for Wales, where annual testing already occurs and is assisting greatly in the control of TB in Wales. Sadly, we have seen cases of dispersal of herds from four-year testing parishes causing multiple disease outbreaks. The sooner we can get to annual testing the better,” said Mr Wyrill.

“Whilst we agree with the need for appropriate testing of and movement restrictions on TB affected cattle, it is ludicrous that we do not apply standardised procedures for other species of livestock such as deer. TB can affect a wide range of other species and although these may be less infectious than bovines and badgers, they are still capable of spreading disease and need to be controlled,” said Mr Wyrill.

When there is a new TB outbreak on a farm, DEFRA requires farms within a 3 km radius of that holding to be tested and 28 days are allowed for the test to take place.

“Given how quickly disease can spread, a period of 28 days before a test needs to be carried out leaves too wide a window for movements of potentially infected cattle from neighbouring holdings. These tests should be carried out as soon as possible after identifying the original breakdown to avoid the risk of disease transfer,” said Mr Wyrill.

The TFA continues to be concerned about DEFRA’s decision to ban partial derestriction of TB breakdown holdings from the end of this month.

“Currently cattle keepers in consultation with local Animal Health officials, can obtain a partial derestriction of isolated parts of their holdings for animals which test negatively for TB. This has meant the difference between survival and bankruptcy for many farmers and DEFRA’s decision to remove this flexibility without any disease risk justification, is causing great anxiety, stress and concern amongst TFA members”.

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