Prepare for Cohort
Culling with OTM Rule Change 29/01/05
English beef and dairy herds will need to be prepared for their
first taste of cohort culling from next month as part of the planned
Over Thirty Month rule change allowing animals born after July
1996 to enter the food chain, warns the English Beef and Lamb Executive
While this may come as a shock to some, enforced culling of cohorts
must be accepted positively by all concerned, alongside the very
best traceability disciplines, as a small price to pay for the
re-admittance of beef from older animals to the food market and
the opening-up of bone-in exports that EU acceptance as a moderate
BSE risk state will bring.
The OTM rule change will mean England adopting the standard European
practice of identifying and culling the cohorts of all animals
slaughtered for food that test positive for BSE - a definition
that includes all animals reared with a BSE case in the first year
of its life when they were aged less than a year old as well as
herd-mates born within a year of the birth of a BSE case.
The rapidly-declining national incidence of BSE means relatively
few animals born after July 1996 are likely to test positive. Any
that do, however, will automatically trigger the identification,
tracing and rapid culling of all cohorts. This will inevitably
mean the enforced loss of productive breeding stock from herds
which may never have seen a case of BSE or been associated with
one, simply because they bought-in heifers from groups with which
a positive BSE-testing animal was once reared.
For cohorts born before August 1996 as under the current OTMS,
of course, this practice remains unnecessary because the stock
are automatically prevented from entering the food chain anyway.
Some 4500 cohorts of positive-testing animals have already been
identified in Great Britain. They are expected to be culled from
February in preparation for the rule change.
At the same time as preparing for cohort culling, the entire cattle
industry needs to maintain the progress made over the past year
in improving the running of the Cattle Tracing System so that bone-in
beef exports can be re-established as close as possible to the
OTM rule change.
In this respect, all sides of the industry must work together
as part of the concerted Defra Action Plan in place to ensure fully
water-tight controls can be demonstrated to the EU Food and Veterinary
Office (FVO) mission at its critical inspection mission in June.
In particular, following the success of the first two rounds of
BCMS statements in eliminating errors from CTS last year, producers
should take time and effort to check and return the new statements
to be issued in the coming month, improving the quality of the
database to an even greater degree.