The government may have overstated the number of farms under bovine TB restrictions in England over the past two years, it has emerged.
The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has blamed data entry glitches for the blunder.
The government agency said it had identified a problem with data recording in their Sam IT system, from which data is sourced to produce these statistics.
This has resulted in the number of herds not officially TB free due to a bovine TB incident (non-OTF herds) being overstated since 2011.
“A number of herds have continued to be incorrectly reported in these statistics as being not officially TB free, when in fact TB restrictions had been lifted during this period,” confirmed DEFRA, in a statement published on Wednesday (15 January).
“Further investigations are under way to verify the extent and scale of the problem, however it can be expected that this data series will be revised significantly downwards for 2012 and 2013.”
The AHVLA has also advised that there is a possibility this problem could have affected the incidence rate of bovine TB.
Therefore as a precautionary measure, the publication of the incidence rate and its component parts – herd incidents and tests on officially TB free herds – have also been suspended pending further investigation. These measures are shown as “n/a” from September 2011 onwards.
“AHVLA is undertaking urgent work to update the missing statistics with the correct data. This issue relates to the reporting of statistics and does not affect farmers or have any impact on disease control.”
Spokesman for the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency
Revised figures will be published as soon as the corrected data has been produced and quality assurance checks have been completed.
An AHVLA spokesman stressed that the problem identified only affects the reporting of TB statistics
He said: “AHVLA is undertaking urgent work to update the missing statistics with the correct data. This issue relates to the reporting of statistics and does not affect farmers or have any impact on disease control.”
He added: “There has been no impact on operational activities. All field-based activities have been properly undertaken and no herds have been mistakenly placed under restrictions, nor have any cattle been slaughtered unnecessarily.
“TB surveillance and disease control regimes have continued to operate normally and no livestock businesses should have been impacted in any way.”
From January to October 2013, the number of reactors and direct contacts compulsorily slaughtered in England was 27,274, compared with 31,143 during the same period in 2012.
Anti-cull campaigners who have questioned the government’s claims that bovine TB has been increasing in the UK over the past 10 years will likely seize upon the embarrassing blunder.
(More on bovine TB and the badger cull )