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    TB - the real threat to herds
10/10/05

Cumbria, once free of bovine TB, has had 38 farms with TB reactors to the end of July this year alone.

Since the re-stocking of the county after the foot and mouth epidemic in 2001 there have been a number of outbreaks of TB.

Two high level conferences addressed the issue of Bovine TB - the Scottish Badgers Annual Conference on Saturday August 27 at Oatridge College, near Edinburgh, and the fourth annual week-long conference on the disease in Dublin Castle. attended by over three hundred delegates from some thirty-five countries.

Vet Graham Brooks of Coomara Veterinary Practice at Carleton, Carlisle, said: "The future for TB in the UK is not good as it is still spreading through the country. The State Veterinary Service is at present carrying out trials into why certain farms are prone to Tuberculosis and neighbours are not.

"Research into a vaccine for Tuberculosis in either cattle or wildlife species is still a long way off. In the near future pre-movement testing is liable to be introduced by Defra.

"This will involve all cattle over 15 months of age that are to be sold off farms in annual or bi-annual testing parishes to require a TB test within 60 days of movement off the farm unless going direct to slaughter. Defra hopes this will reduce the spread of TB to such areas as Cumbria, which in the past have been free of Tuberculosis."

In Great Britain, which receives no EU funding for its TB eradication programme, the prevalence of TB is unevenly distributed and concentrated in West England and Wales. Only 0.8 per cent of Scotland's herds are restricted, whereas the overall figure for Great Britain is 5.65 per cent.

NFU Scotland believes a combination of careful sourcing of cattle, rigorous cattle testing and monitoring of wildlife is the key to maintaining Scotland's high health status.

Tuberculosis has an extremely high prevalence rate of 12.1 per cent in Northern Ireland's herds. In 2000 the figure was 6.8 per cent. And in the Republic of Ireland, the prevalence rate is 5.9 per cent compared with 7.5 per cent in 2000.

Bovine Tuberculosis is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis - one of a group of bacteria, some of which cause disease in other species, and some are present in the environment.

Mr Brooks said that despite a sustained herd testing programme since the 1950s, the UK, unlike other industrialised countries had failed to eradicate tuberculosis from its cattle population. In the 1970s infection with M.

bovis was found in a number of wildlife species which have been thought to act as likely sources of infection for the cattle population.

The main parts of the country from which it has not been possible to eradicate TB from the cattle population are Cornwall, Devon, Dyfed, Gloucestershire, Hereford and Worcester and Wiltshire.

Towards the end of the 1990s there was a rise in the number of farms affected and animals slaughtered as reactors. This increase is such that between 1996 and 2000 the number of reactors had doubled. This increase is continuing with new 'hot spots' developing in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

Mr Brooks said there were two main ways in which TB is spread between cattle - by spread from infected cattle or infection via environmental contamination by infected wildlife. To prevent the entry of TB to the herd simple biosecurity measures will help.

  • Keep a closed herd. If you have to buy in stock then enquire when the cattle were last tested for TB. Always try to buy the youngest possible stock.
  • Ensure your fences prevent nose to nose contact with neighbour's cattle.
  • Avoid common grazings. If they have to be used isolate and test cattle before mixing with other stock on the farm.
  • Keep wildlife out of buildings especially food stores and cattle housing.
  • Raise feed and water troughs so that their lips are at least 30 inches off the ground
  • Molasses is the favourite food of many animals so they should be raised off the ground to prevent access by wild animals.

These simple procedures will not only protect your herd from Tuberculosis but also from the more common production diseases for example Leptospirosis, Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR).

All farms should have a written biosecurity plan as part of their farms health plan, which should be compiled in consultation with their veterinary surgeon.

New TB Rules Take Effect

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