The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed temporary amendments to bovine TB (TB) testing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that will allow herd tests to continue while maintaining the safety of farmers and vets during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new measures allow calves under 180 days old to be excluded from certain routine and targeted surveillance TB skin tests in Officially TB Free (OTF) herds if, in the vet’s judgement, they can’t be tested safely in line with government social distancing guidance.
The new measures in England and Wales, announced by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), came into force on 4 May following campaigning by the veterinary profession to allow a greater number of TB herd tests to be completed safely.
In Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has introduced measures whereby TB testing is being allowed to proceed only in exceptional circumstances where it can be carried out safely.
In Scotland, normal TB testing procedures still apply. If it’s not possible to safely TB test calves whilst maintaining social distancing, vets must record this on the test chart and the test will be incomplete.
BVA Junior Vice President James Russell welcomed the announcements called the approach to testing ‘pragmatic’. Mr Russell said: “While we recognise that it will have some effect on the overall interpretation of the TB status of herds, the amendment provides a risk-based approach that prioritises human safety and public health whilst allowing vets and farmers to continue vital animal health work during the Covid-19 restrictions.
“From a longer-term perspective, it will help vets maintain the food supply chain by controlling bovine TB through statutory controls.“
BVA’s guide for farm vets and Official Veterinarians on assessing essential care during the Covid-19 pandemic is available to view here.