Limousin cows© FLPA/Rex/Shutterstock

A government-funded helpline offering advice and guidance on protecting cattle from bovine TB is now available to farmers in high-risk and edge areas of England.

The service, which launched on Wednesday (4 October) at the Dairy Show in Shepton Mallet, was one of a number of measures announced last month by Defra in an update to its strategy on tackling TB.

Defra also announced an extension of badger culling in areas of Cheshire and Wiltshire, and the relaunch of the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme.

See also: Badger cull extended to Cheshire and Wiltshire

Expert advice will be provided by industry specialist Origin Group through farm visits, a telephone helpline, or by email, and is based on the biosecurity five-point plan (see box).

The helpline will offer advice to farmers on limiting on-farm disease risk, while farm visits will offer practical advice to help farmers protect their herds or manage the impacts of a TB breakdown.

Up to 2,400 visits in total will be made to farms in the South West and West Midlands, from Cornwall to Derbyshire, over the three years of the service.

£100m taxpayer bill

Chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said Bovine TB is one of the greatest animal health threats in the UK, and costs taxpayers more than £100m every year.

Follow the biosecurity five-point plan

  1. Restrict contact between badgers and cattle
  2. Manage cattle feed and water
  3. Stop infected cattle entering the herd
  4. Reduce risk from neighbouring herds
  5. Minimise infection from cattle manure

More than 29,000 cattle were slaughtered in England in 2016 in an effort to beat the disease.
 
“As part of our comprehensive long-term plan to eradicate the disease, I am delighted to announce that from today, farmers will be able to access even more help and support via the new bTB Advisory Service,” said Mr Gibbens.
 
“Alongside the existing TB Hub, the bTB Advisory Service will help arm our farmers with the knowledge they need to prevent this devastating disease spreading – a vital weapon in our fight to protect the UK’s herds and our farmers’ futures.”
 
Farmers wanting to register their interest can call 01306 779410 or email info@tbas.org.uk.