Bovine tuberculosis is the most significant animal health problem facing the livestock industry, the government’s chief veterinary officer has warned.

Nigel Gibbens highlighted the devastating impact of bTB in his annual report, Animal Health 2008, published on Friday (28 August).

The document provides a definitive record of government animal health and welfare activities across the UK.

“There are continuing challenges, the most significant being the increasing incidence of Bovine tuberculosis in England and Wales,” says the document.

Some £94.7 million spent on the disease in Great Britain during 2008.

Provisional year-end statistics show an 18.9% increase in the number of new incidents recorded in Great Britain during the year compared to 2007.

Some 85% of new incidents occurred in the west of England and in Wales.

“Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) continues to be a serious problem for the farming industry,” the document warns.

Confined mainly to the South-West, West Midlands and Wales, the report nevertheless acknowledges the severe impact of the disease.

“Though largely regional… bTB can be disruptive and economically devastating for farmers,” it states.

The report highlights the work of national administrations with stakeholders to develop long term control strategies with view to eradication of the disease.

Overall, it says there were fewer exotic disease outbreaks in 2008 than 2007.

Action was successful against bluetongue, with voluntary vaccination in England and Wales and a compulsory campaign in Scotland.

Control was effective against two outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza and containment in quarantine of an incident of rabies in an imported puppy.