Q&A: Guide to TB restriction rules for cattle farmers

TB is an increasing risk for cattle farmers across the country, with 83 cases confirmed in Cheshire and Cumbria alone in first half of his year.

If a herd has a reactor, denoted by a positive tuberculin skin test, restriction measures will come into force, which can affect trading options and limit movements for at least 60 days. 

So what are the routes of sale for non-reactors in the herd, and can you claim compensation if cattle have to be slaughtered?

Farmers Weekly has teamed up with TB Hub, which provides free advice and guidance to cattle farmers on tackling TB, to answer these and other common questions on TB restriction rules.

Cattle in crush © Tim Scrivener

© Tim Scrivener

What happens if I have a TB reactor in my herd? Does this mean I can’t then trade?

Your herd will be placed under movement restrictions. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t trade but, to reduce the risk of disease spread, the options available to you may change (see “What routes of sale do I have for stock when under restriction?”, below, for more information).

Be aware, no movements are allowed on to new breakdown farms and movements off will be limited until the first short interval test has been completed.

See also: Bovine TB news

How long will I be under movement restrictions after my first positive test?

This depends on the circumstances, including the extent and nature of the breakdown and the area in which your holding is located.

It will also depend upon whether further reactors are found at subsequent tests. However, in all cases herd restrictions will be in place for at least 60 days from the date the reactors are found.

See also: TB resistance bull proofs to be launched by December 2015

What TB diagnostic tests are used and is there a choice of which test can be used?

What is TB Hub?

TB Hub, launched this week, is a website providing beef and dairy farmers with a range of free advice.

Created by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) in conjunction with the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the British Cattle Veterinary Association, Defra, Landex and the NFU, the site provides information on all aspects of dealing with TB on farm.

Among the guidance on offer is a new biosecurity five-point plan outlining measures farmers should take to help protect their herds from bovine TB.

There are also links to the ibTB service, which provides information on local bovine TB outbreaks in England.

Visit TB Hub to find out more.

The primary screening test for TB in cattle in Great Britain is the tuberculin skin test.

The gamma interferon blood test is a supplementary TB test that may be used by the Animal Plant and Health Agency (Apha) in some breakdown situations to increase the chance of identifying infected animals in a herd.

Will I be compensated for stock that are found to have TB and how much will I receive?

Compensation is paid to owners of cattle the government requires to be compulsorily slaughtered for TB control purposes.

Compensation is determined primarily through table valuations, based on average market prices, which are updated and published monthly by Defra.

What routes of sale do I have for stock when under restriction?

Cattle can move from TB breakdown herds only under licences issued by Apha.

Routes of sale when under restriction include to slaughter (either directly or via an approved slaughter gathering or collection centre), to approved finishing units (AFUs), to orange markets or to other restricted farms.

My neighbour’s farm has just gone down with TB. What does that mean for me?

Depending on the nature (for example, post-mortem evidence of disease found) and location of the TB incident, your herd may be subject to a TB test.

Also, if you have purchased stock from your neighbour a “tracing” test of those animals may be required.

Are there any practices that could help me get clear of the restriction?

Good biosecurity can help to reduce the risk of TB spread within your herd (as well as other disease transmission risks) and any risk of further transmission from wildlife.

If I have two farms, is there any advantage to running them as entirely separate holdings (two holding numbers) in the event of a TB breakdown?

There are many factors to take into account when considering this possibility.

One consideration is the fact that running farms as entirely separate holdings (with different CPH numbers and equipment and no SOA or CTS links between them) could mean that both aren’t automatically shut down in the event of a breakdown on one of them.

However, Apha will consider any risks of transmission on the non-breakdown farm and, if judged necessary, restrictions would be extended to that holding.

There are also disadvantages with operating separate holdings, including the need for cattle moving between the two holdings to be pre-movement tested and all movements recorded with BCMS.

Is there an advantage to setting up an isolation unit on my farm to get rid of animals sooner?

Isolation units within a holding are no longer permitted. However, isolation and testing of TB restricted cattle from a single source on a separate, unrestricted holding is possible, subject to assessment and approval by Apha.

Cattle in that unit would then be subject to TB testing at 60-day intervals.

Restrictions may be lifted following two clear, consecutive 60-days tests and provided the last test is at least 120 days after the date that the unit was closed.

If a cow fails the TB test, will her calf be taken too?

Calves from reactor animals are not routinely taken. However, Apha will assess the risks to the calf following post-mortem examination of the reactor cow.

If the risk to the calf is deemed to be high – for example, if the cow had TB lesions in the udder – then it will be taken as a direct contact. Compensation would be paid for the calf. In reality, this is a rare event.

I have seen a badger in my cattle shed and/or feed store. What can I do to stop it?

There are various measures you can put in place to stop badgers entering your farm buildings.

The sides of the building and any doors or gates should be of a smooth, solid construction and 1.5m high to prevent badgers from climbing.

Various materials, such as solid sheets of metal or plywood, can be used to achieve this. Gaps should be no more than 7.5cm to prevent badger access.

You could also consider permanent or electric fencing. TB Hub gives more information on measures that can be taken.

My neighbour’s farm has just gone down with TB. What can I do to protect my herd from the risk of cattle-to-cattle transmission?

It is important to maintain perimeter fencing that prevents direct contact with neighbouring cattle (for example, double fencing) as well as straying and mixing with stock from other herds.

The boundary should be as wide as is practically possible and a minimum of 3m.

If possible, you should avoid grazing cattle in fields that are adjacent to fields that have livestock in at the same time or where manure or slurry is being spread.

The ibTB interactive mapping tool can help you monitor the situation.