I hope you are all keeping well. Many of you will have heard/received information regarding the changes that have been made to the TB testing policy for our area. I hope to shed some light on these changes in this newsletter. It is important to say that we understand the topic of TB runs far beyond a few pages of my ramblings and requires in depth analysis and conversation, something which has been made immensely difficult over the last year and a half. The George Farm Vets will be holding a TB discussion group meeting for all cattle clients on the 2nd September 2021, starting at 7pm in Malmesbury Town Hall (COVID pending). Light refreshment and food will be provided. If you are able to attend, please contact the farm office on 01666 823035 so we can gauge numbers/know how much beer and cider to buy!
Following a consultation in 2018, DEFRA announced that default 6 monthly TB surveillance testing of cattle herds with Official Tuberculosis Free status (OTF) would replace annual testing in the High Risk Area (HRA) of England. The role out of this new policy has been delayed up until now due to reduced veterinary capacity for TB testing. A pilot study was carried out in Wales that looked at non-veterinary professional or lay TB testers. The study had promising results and means DEFRA has now formed a new category of 'Approved Tuberculin Tester' to help meet the increased testing requirements.
From July 2021 all farms in the HRA are now subject to 6 monthly whole herd tests. This means herds that complete their annual whole herd (WHT) between July and December 2021 will have their first 6 monthly herd test from January 2022 onwards. Those that complete their annual WHT between January and June 2022 will have their first six-monthly herd test from July 2022 onwards. The testing window for your 6 monthly WHT will still be 60 days - the same window that has previously applied to annual WHT. Due to the logistical difficulties the 6 monthly WHT may cause, some flexibility is available and APHA will allow a one-off change where farms can request to bring their next testing window forward (not back). It is vitally important therefore that you check with Emma, Val or Catherine in the farm office if we can accommodate your proposed earlier test window before you contact the APHA TB Advice Centre/DEFRA to apply for this change.
A point you may have also heard is that there will be changes to contiguous testing requirements and tracer tests. Contiguous herd testing is carried out to detect spread of infection from a TB breakdown with lesion and/or culture positive animals to neighbouring herds. It is not usually required in herds on 6 monthly WHT due to the high frequency of surveillance testing. Similarly APHA will try wherever possible to implement tracer tests as part of a farms 6 monthly WHT. It is important to note that APHA may require contiguous testing or individual/group tracer testing in some herds with 'exceptional circumstances.'
There will be no change to Approved Finishing Units (AFUs) surveillance policy, meaning they will remain on rolling 90 day WHT regardless of TB status.