New TB hotspot emerges in Yorkshire

Concern is growing that a new TB hotspot is emerging in Yorkshire after two farms are believed to have tested positive for the disease.

NFU livestock board chairman Alistair Mackintosh warned areas clean of TB were a “ticking time bomb” as the disease continued to spread to the north of the country.

His warning came as 140 Holstein cattle were understood to have been culled on a farm in Huddersfield.

The cattle were destroyed after 40 cows on the farm in Clayton West tested positive for the disease.

Farmers Weekly has also learnt at least one other neighbouring farm has contracted the disease, possibly from the sale of stock. The disease’s spread northwards will cause concern among Scottish farmers, whose herds have been declared officially TB-free just this week (see news, p6).

Mr Mackintosh said the outbreaks in northern areas of England were unsurprising, as a shortage of cattle made it difficult to maintain clean areas.

“Until we get serious commitment from the government it’s no surprise we are seeing these incidences,” he said. “We are all on tenter hooks trying to keep the disease at bay, but with pre-movement tests not 100%, farmers do have to make tough decisions when buying in animals.”

While the region had been TB-free until now, a dairy producer close to the outbreak said farmers were concerned about the disease because TB tests were only being carried out every four years.

The farmer, who asked to remain anonymous, said he had campaigned for yearly testing to allow for quicker detection and potentially stop the disease from spreading to wildlife populations.

However, while Mr Mackintosh agreed more frequent testing in clean areas could help, it would be impractical unless the government was willing to fund it.

A DEFRA spokeswoman admitted the outbreaks in west Yorkshire were not totally unexpected, even in the presence of pre-movement TB testing, but said they were trying to bring the cases under control.

“Animal Health is working closely with owners of affected herds in order to respond quickly and robustly and bring this cluster of new TB incidents under control,” she said.

“This includes rapid deployment of ancillary Gamma Interferon blood tests to boost the sensitivity of TB testing, testing of traced and contiguous premises and partial slaughter of one heavily infected herd.”