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Stackyard News Feb 08

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Bovine TB Pre-Movement Tests Cost £15 per Animal

Bovine TB pre-movement testing is costing livestock producers more than £15 per animal, a figure deemed as a major cost burden to their business, according to conclusions from an RABDF farmer survey.


dairy cattle

The findings highlight a bTB cost area that has so far been ignored, and are being used by RABDF in its Government lobbying activities for a badger cull in areas where there is a high and persistent bTB incidence, combined with an effective programme of cattle controls.

The survey, which was completed by University of Reading for RABDF, was designed to identify the true farm costs associated with bTB pre-movement testing in England and Wales. Sixty livestock farmers were involved, they pre-movement tested cattle on average 2.45 times in the previous 12 months usually prior to sale, to another farm or through a market. There was substantial variation in the number of animals tested, from less than five to over 100, with an average of 28.6 animals tested per testing occasion. Most farms had to collect cattle especially for the test.

The farm costs associated with pre-movement testing fell into four major categories shown in Table 1.

Table 1: bTB pre-movement testing costs


Cost () / animal

Farm labour




Extra resources and management time


Farm business disruption time/missed marketing opportunities




Source: University of Reading


The majority of farmers indicated that pre-movement testing was a cost burden to their business. While the average pre-movement test worked out at £15.36 per animal, the distribution of testing costs per animal across the sample of farms showed considerable variation, with a substantial proportion of farms incurring costs of more than £20 per animal.

“The survey highlights an area of significant costs that had so far been completely forgotten when it comes to controlling further spread of this debilitating disease,” comments RABDF chairman, Lyndon Edwards. “At a time when Defra is insisting that farmers adopt a cost and responsibility sharing approach to animal health, this survey has confirmed they are already doing just that. These livestock farmers are having to foot the bill to cover measures which are part of Defra’s legislative requirement in its current bTB control programme, and while they are prepared to do that, the vast majority are desperate for Defra to fulfil its half of the bargain.”

The University of Reading’s Prof Richard Bennett added: “It is clear from the survey that disruption to the farm business is likely to be a larger cost of bTB pre-movement testing for many cattle farms, and one which is particularly difficult for these farmers to quantify, which leads them to under-estimate the total costs involved.”

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