The Scottish Government’s decision to seek Officially Tuberculosis Free (OTF) status for Scottish cattle sends out a clear message to the rest of the UK and Europe that enhances Scotland’s reputation for quality, healthy livestock according to NFU Scotland.
The number of confirmed TB cases in Scotland has now been at a consistently low level over a sustained number of years, that it meets the criteria required for OTF status.
With the announcement that Scotland is to seek European approval for OTF status, it starts a process that is likely to take many months to complete and has no implications for the coming autumn store sales. For the future, the Union believes that work must begin in earnest to look at the implications for the traditional trade in suckled calves and store cattle between Scotland and other parts of the UK and how any concerns over this can be minimised. There are no implications for prime cattle entering Scotland and going straight to abattoirs.
NFU Scotland’s Vice-President Nigel Miller, a Borders livestock farmer and vet said:
"Scottish Government and stakeholders should be applauded for the leadership they have shown in dealing with the threat posed by bovine TB. Applying for and receiving OTF status sends out a clear message to the rest of the UK and beyond about the efforts being taken in Scotland to improve the health record of our livestock. For Scotland to be in a position where it can apply for official recognition that our cattle herd is free of bovine TB is a fantastic achievement, particularly when set against the desperate backdrop of soaring disease incidence in some parts of England and Wales.
“Our sympathies lie with those farmers hit by TB because their experience of the disease clearly show that, were TB to grab a hold in our livestock or our wildlife, it would place a huge cost and emotional burden on any farmer affected. Working to keep the disease out of Scotland must remain an animal health priority for the country.
“Applying for OTF status would see further measures put in place designed to keep our disease incidence at a very low level. Scotland's TB status has already been influenced by taking the decision two years ago of going down the route of insisting that all store cattle arriving in Scotland from high risk areas in England and Wales are pre- and post-movement tested. OTF status will likely see that requirement remain.
“The worry will be over any new TB testing requirements being placed on suckled calves and store cattle entering Scotland from low risk areas of England and Wales. This will create concerns for those Scottish producers who traditionally source store stock from low-risk areas in the UK and for those markets involved in facilitating that trade. Slaughter stock from England and Wales entering Scottish abattoirs are unaffected.
“The OTF application process means that those farmers attending this year's autumn sales of calves south of the Border will be unaffected by any new testing requirements although it remains good practice to check the TB status of any stock being introduced to your herd. As for the future, we now have a period of time to sit down with Scottish Government and other stakeholder to look at trade implications of any additional TB testing requirements and how any concerns brought about by OTF status can be addressed.”
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