Cost-cutting measures could see livestock farmers take on more responsibility for dealing with bovine TB in cattle.
Farmers are being asked to suggest how DEFRA might “rebalance the roles and responsibilities” of the government, veterinarians and industry with regard to the disease.
Areas up for review include TB testing, reactor removal, advice and compensation.
One option could see farmers and vets asked to organise their own bovine TB tests within guidelines set by the government.
Michael Seals, chairman of the government’s Animal Health and Welfare Board, said the aim was to improve services while reducing the cost of the disease.
“Existing structures around TB testing and reactor removal have been with us for many years,” Mr Seals told Farmers Weekly.
“If we want to improve the service – and yes, make further savings – we have got to find new ways of working that may well, in the end, redefine the roles of government and business.”
Bovine TB saw 26,000 cattle slaughtered last year – costing the taxpayer £90m in 2010/11 alone, according to government figures.
At an average combined cost of £34,000 for every new outbreak, Mr Seals said it was an expense neither industry nor government could afford.
The board has embarked on a survey of livestock farmers and industry stakeholders before making recommendations to ministers on the best way forward.
“Most farmers will realise just by looking at the media that the government has to save money,” said Mr Seals.
Rather than retaining existing structures, which would mean limited savings, a better way forward might be a “new age” of supported responsibility.
This would see the industry supported by the government to take on some of the roles previously undertaken by Animal Health.
Feedback from farmers and vets will form part of the board’s recommendations to ministers ahead of a formal government consultation next year.