Cattle movements blamed for Durham TB outbreak

NFU advisers sought to reassure local farmers after bovine tuberculosis was confirmed in livestock in County Durham.

An NFU meeting was held on Monday evening (11 November) after cattle tested positive for the disease from a farm in the area of Haswell, east of the city of Durham.

It is the first recent incident of bovine TB in the county for some time.

The herd in question has been placed under movement restrictions, with a number of animals removed for slaughter after reacting to TB skin tests.

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency said it believed the infection was inadvertently carried in cattle bought from a high-risk area of the country.

TB testing is taking place on neighbouring holdings within a 3km radius. The farmer at the centre of the outbreak is said to be devastated.

NFU chief livestock adviser Peter Garbutt said the Durham meeting was held to support local farmers and advise them on ways of minimising TB risks.

Cattle controls and a robust testing programme had picked up the disease, he said.

There was no evidence to suggest that any cattle movements had been illegal, Mr Garbutt told Farmers Weekly.

“That would be a serious allegation,” he added. Anyone who had any evidence should report it to Animal Health.

The outbreak comes little more than three months after a vet called for renewed diligence among farmers in an effort to stop the further spread of TB across northern England.

Lancashire vet Rob Howe, of Lambert, Leonard and May, called for a co-ordinated approach involving farmers, vets, auction marts and animal health staff.

“Cattle producers in counties not affected don’t know how lucky they are, but the movement of stock from TB infected areas into Lancashire and Cumbria continues and the risks increase.”

Pre-movement testing used on individual or small numbers of animals should only be considered as a safety-net, said Mr Howe.

“There’s a growing risk that infected animals that aren’t identified and are moved into clean areas will create a pool of infection in the wildlife they come into contact with.”

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