Vets warn that brucellosis decision could ruin rural practices

The British Veterinary Association has slammed government plans to end the routine two-yearly blood testing of beef animals for brucellosis.


Routine testing will end this April, according to a government announcement made in a letter published by the Veterinary Record on March 24. The letter states that there is “little justification for continuing the existing routine for beef herd surveillance”.


It was signed by DEFRA chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds; Charles Milne, chief vet for Scotland; and Christianne Glossop, chief vet for Wales. EU rules no longer required routine brucellosis testing which added little to the ability to detect outbreaks of the disease, said the letter.


Other controls – such as abortion reporting and investigating, and routine monthly bulk milk testing in dairy herds – will be retained. But testing was not a cost-effective mechanism for demonstrating freedom from brucellosis or for detecting the disease.


But the British Veterinary Association warned that the decision to end testing would have far-reaching implications. For some rural veterinary practices, it would be the final nail in the coffin, said BVA president David Catlow.


“We are content that with prompt reporting to veterinary surgeons we will still be able to pick up brucellosis quickly. But we are very unhappy that this is effectively a DEFRA budget cut which will take money away from remote veterinary practices.”


Mr Catlow said the BVA could accept the government’s argument for refocusing the way that the surveillance budget was spent. But ending testing would be catastrophic in rural areas where beef farming and veterinary services were already marginal.


“Catastrophic might be a strong word but it will certainly be the last straw for many veterinary practices in some of the most isolated rural areas.”