The NFU and Livestock Auctioneers Association have presented a letter to DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett detailing their concerns over the introduction of pre-movement testing for bovine tuberculosis.

The letter was handed over to Mrs Beckett during the union’s annual conference in Birmingham on Monday (27 Feb).

The document said the two groups welcomed the delay in the introduction of pre-movement testing but the delay should be three months, rather than five weeks, to allow for a proper consultation.

“We would argue that putting off its introduction until late March is still insufficient to address our concerns and clarify guidance for the industry.”

The letter said they wanted the government to accept that it should bear the costs of pre-movement testing rather than farmers.

It pointed out that in the week before testing was due to be introduced farmers in the south west were having to pay £20/hd for a test, compared with the £9/hd estimated by the DEFRA.

The primary concern of the two organisations is that pre-movement testing will be imposed on the industry in advance of any action to eradicate the bovine TB in wildlife, said the letter.

“We are convinced that all this will serve to do is burden farmers with extra costs and bureaucracy, while at the same time doing little to really address the disease problem as the wildfire disease reservoir remains untouched.

“These disease control measures have always been seen as a package of complementary instruments to be introduced simultaneously. This is exactly how they should be treated.”

During her speech to the conference, Mrs Beckett said she took the decision to delay pre-movement testing to allow an independent adviser to carry out a rapid survey of veterinary capacity and preparedness to deliver the policy.

But she was heckled by a delegate when she told the audience that it was in their own interests to co-operate with the policy of pre-movement testing. “You have also got to show co-operation,” shouted a producer from the 800-strong audience.

Mrs Beckett said the consultation on badger culling would run until 10 March and the government would examine all the evidence before making a decision.

“As I have said before, any culling policy must be cost-effective, practicable, sustainable and humane, and form part of a balance of wildlife and cattle controls.”

OTHER NFU/LAA CONCERNS 

Staff working in the State Veterinary Service have told the two groups that it could take 10 days or so to provide farmers with a written record of clear tests.
The organisations are also worried that there may not be enough vets to allow farmers to get their animals tested within a reasonable time.
 In addition they say that the government’s estimates on the costs of tests are seriously flawed – DEFRA has claimed that testing will produce a net benefit to the industry not a net cost.