Holstein breeder accuses Apha of ‘incompetence’ on bovine TB

A respected pedigree Holstein breeder has accused the Animal Plant and Health Agency (Apha) of “incompetence” which is costing dairy farmers dearly.

Bovine tuberculosis (TB) restrictions were placed on Paul and Jo Andrews’ Plymouth-based Beneknowle herd in mid-May this year, after two inconclusive reactor (IR) cattle were identified in a short-interval whole-herd test.

But the couple claim their case was badly mishandled, including failure to inform them of testing requirements, incorrect advice on restrictions, delay in culturing, and obstructive communication.

See also: TB cattle vaccine on target for 2025 rollout says chief vet

“It’s heartbreaking, TB is devasting and we feel that we and the animals are being failed,” said Mrs Andrews.

“On the identification of two IRs, Apha failed to inform us that sending an IR to slaughter before a negative culture result would trigger a whole-herd test.

“If we’d known that we would not have sent one to private slaughter until the culture came back.

“We were shocked to find out about this requirement after it was too late.”

Under restriction

The couple were then advised if they passed the follow-up whole-herd test then restrictions would be lifted, regardless of the privately slaughtered IR status.

But despite a clear test, restrictions were not lifted and the farm remains under restriction until the culture results.

“We get conflicting advice from Apha all the time – I now record all the calls I have with them,” said Mrs Andrews.

“For example, on 7 August Apha told us that the IR tissue sample in question was submitted for culture on 23 June. The next day, we were told that it was submitted on 3 July – an 11-day difference.”

To date (14 August), TB restrictions are yet to be lifted, which means Mr and Mrs Andrews cannot sell stock.

“After TB restrictions, we’re overstocked, and if they are not sold, we don’t know how to house or feed them through the winter – forage stocks are already under pressure,” said Mrs Andrews.

An Apha spokesman said it takes between six and 22 weeks to complete a mycobacterial culture, including the 42-day incubation period, which may have to be extended in some scenarios.

“While we are unable to comment on specific cases, we understand how distressing it is for owners whose animals test positive for TB, and work closely with them to provide veterinary advice on their options,” they added.