The Tenant Farmers Association has called for a tougher cattle testing regime in England in the battle against bovine TB.

In Wales, annual testing already occurs and it is helping to identify cases of the disease that could otherwise have gone undetected.

However, in England annual TB testing of farms is only extended to “high risk” areas, such as the South West, west and central England and East Sussex.

The rest of England is placed under four-year testing, where cattle movements from high-risk areas causes most TB breakdowns.

TFA national chairman Stephen Wyrill said the organisation supported Defra’s 25-year TB eradication strategy “in general”.

But he highlighted some areas where the strategy could be improved.

“The TFA has long supported annual TB testing. We agree with Christianne Glossop, the chief vet for Wales, where annual testing already occurs and is assisting greatly in the control of TB in Wales,” said Mr Wyrill.

“Sadly, we have seen cases of dispersal of herds from four-year testing parishes causing multiple disease outbreaks. The sooner we can get to annual testing the better.”

“Sadly, we have seen cases of dispersal of herds from four-year testing parishes causing multiple disease outbreaks. The sooner we can get to annual testing the better.”
Stephen Wyrill, TFA national chairman

When a new TB outbreak occurs on farm in England, Defra requires farms within a 3km radius of that holding to be tested – and 28 days are allowed for the test to take place.

But given how quickly the disease can spread, the TFA said a period of up to 28 days before a test needed to be carried out left “too wide a window” for movements of potentially infected cattle from neighbouring holdings”.

“These tests should be carried out as soon as possible after identifying the original breakdown to avoid the risk of disease transfer,” said Mr Wyrill.

Meanwhile, the TFA said it remained concerned about Defra’s decision to ban partial derestriction of TB breakdown holdings from the end of this month .

“Currently cattle keepers in consultation with local animal health officials can obtain a partial derestriction of isolated parts of their holdings for animals which test negatively for TB,” said Mr Wyrill.

“This has meant the difference between survival and bankruptcy for many farmers and Defra’s decision to remove this flexibility without any disease risk justification, is causing great anxiety, stress and concern amongst TFA members.”

Defra has so far been unable to comment on the story.

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