Bovine Tuberculosis (again!)

Last month JP discussed the new testing regimes and the areas affected, so it may seem that we are a bit TB fixated at the moment. With reactors and new breakdowns being found each week it is a very real concern for many of you and we are here to offer any advice we can on how to move forward with your business. There seems to be an unfair stigma attached to the disease where the most diligent farmer can be brought down by sheer bad luck.

What happens when reactors are found on the farm?

These animals should be isolated; it is a legal requirement. Although it may seem ridiculous as the animals will have been mixing up until the day the test is read and it is rarely enforced, it may help you gain an earlier window for the next test.

The vet is then required to enter your test online within 1 working day. This informs APHA of the breakdown. APHA should then be in contact to assign you a case vet and arrange collection of the reactors. The average time before collection is 7 days, but if you have not had any contact within 2 or 3 business days we would encourage you to phone them. It worth mentioning at this point that, depending on the result of the test and past results etc. inconclusive reactors MAY be reinterpreted as reactors and taken off the farm. This is on a case by case basis.

New breakdowns are often, but not always, subject to Gamma-interferon blood testing on the subsequent 60 day test. The blood test is more sensitive than the skin test (only misses 1 in 10 positive animal) half what the skin test misses, but less specific (3-4 animals from 100 positive tests will be negative) compared to fewer than 1 in 100 for the skin test.

What are your options when you go down with TB?

As any of you who have had to deal with APHA over this issue can testify, it is not always straightforward. However there are options which may allow trade to continue.

Selling direct to slaughter. This must be done under license, readily obtained from APHA.
Selling to an Approved Finishing unit (AFU). Cattle sourced from restricted herds must have had a clear test within 90 days preceding their movement, with the exception of calves under six weeks old.
Set up your own AFU. This obviously takes some infrastructure and capital, but may be useful to your business. There are a number of conditions to be met before a license is granted, but it means that animals would not need testing on the 6 monthly. It is MUCH easier to set up an AFU without being under restriction, so expediency would be key if you were thinking along those lines, as TB encroaches ever further.

Although it is disappointing and distressing to go down with TB, there are options which make business operations feasible. As always, if you have any queries please get in touch. Have a very happy New Year!

Further information

This is the Government guidelines page for setting up an AFU:

And some further info on them from