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A survey of livestock farmers, carried out on behalf of RABDF, has shown that bovine TB pre-movement testing is costing livestock producers more than £15 per animal.

The findings highlight a bTB cost area that has so far been ignored, and are being used by RABDF in its lobbying for a badger cull in areas where there is a high and persistent bTB incidence, combined with an effective programme of cattle controls.
  
The survey has been published ahead of a key report by the environment, food and rural affairs select commitee which will be published tomorrow (Wednesday, 27 Feb).

The research was completed by University of Reading for RABDF and was designed to identify the true farm costs associated with bTB pre-movement testing in England and Wales.

The farm costs associated with pre-movement testing fell into four major categories shown below:

   Cost (£) / animal  
Farm labour  4.00
 Vet  4.33
 Extra resources and management time   0.51
 Farm business disruption time/missed marketing opportunities 6.52
 Total 

15.36

   Source: University of Reading


Sixty livestock farmers were involved, they pre-movement tested cattle on average 2.45 times in the previous 12 months usually prior to sale, to another farm or through a market.

There was substantial variation in the number of animals tested, from less than five to over 100, with an average of 28.6 animals tested per testing occasion. Most farms had to collect cattle especially for the test.

While the average pre-movement test worked out at £15.36 per animal, the distribution of testing costs per animal across the sample of farms showed considerable variation, with a substantial proportion of farms incurring costs of more than £20 per animal.

“The survey highlights an area of significant costs that had so far been completely forgotten when it comes to controlling further spread of this debilitating disease,” said RABDF chairman, Lyndon Edwards. “At a time when DEFRA is insisting that farmers adopt a cost and responsibility sharing approach to animal health, this survey has confirmed they are already doing just that.

“These livestock farmers are having to foot the bill to cover measures which are part of DEFRA’s legislative requirement in its current bTB control programme, and while they are prepared to do that, the vast majority are desperate for DEFRA to fulfil its half of the bargain.”

The University of Reading’s Prof Richard Bennett added: “It is clear from the survey that disruption to the farm business is likely to be a larger cost of bTB pre-movement testing for many cattle farms, and one which is particularly difficult for these farmers to quantify, which leads them to under-estimate the total costs involved.”

To comment on this story – and to see what farmers have already said about the cost of testing – visit the discussion forums.