slider1

How can I reduce the impact of a bTB breakdown on my business?

Bovine TB (bTB) poses a significant challenge to the cattle farming industry and costs the taxpayer over £100 million every year. As well as the financial cost, bTB also has a devastating impact on farmers and rural communities.

All cattle keepers should consider how they will manage their herd in the event of a bTB breakdown. It is recommended that farmers adopt a proactive approach and develop a contingency plan for bTB with input from their vet.

Contingency planning enables farmers to better manage the risks to their business and ultimately reduce the impact of a bTB breakdown.

Developing a contingency plan

Each cattle enterprise is different and so it is vital that farmers consider their business model and identify specific risks that would arise in the event of a bTB breakdown.  For example, a large commercial dairy herd spread over several farms will have different risks to a small holding with a pedigree suckler herd.

To control the risk of spreading bTB through the movement of cattle with undisclosed infection, only limited and controlled cattle movements onto and off TB restricted premises are permitted. This is why contingency planning around cattle movements is probably the most important part of any business continuity plans for cattle farms in the High Risk and Edge areas of England.

Minimising the impact of TB restrictions

Consider how TB restrictions would impact on your farm business – how could you minimise this?

Movement of cattle on to a TB restricted holding – the rules

  • TB restrictions prevent movements of cattle on to a TB restricted holding except under licence
  • No movements of cattle on to a TB restricted holding are permitted prior to completion of the first short interval test (SIT). The reason for this is that in many cases, the true extent and severity of a new bTB breakdown will not become apparent until completion of the first SIT. Therefore, the risk for any incoming cattle cannot be fully assessed until the results of this test are available to APHA
  • No movements of cattle on to a TB restricted holding are permitted when there are reactors present on farm
  • If TB testing is overdue then no movements of cattle on to a TB restricted holding are permitted
  • Farmers can apply to APHA for a licence to move cattle on to a TB restricted holding (see below). All licence applications are assessed and a Veterinary Risk Assessment (VRA) is carried out. If a movement is deemed high risk then the licence request will be refused

If your business model requires the movement of cattle on to your holding during a bTB breakdown, then sourcing from herds with a lower risk of bTB will reduce the risk of introducing further undisclosed bTB infection.  There is of course a greater risk that cattle moved on will become infected after introduction to the herd and this will potentially increase the pool of infected cattle and prolong the bTB breakdown, adding to the cost of the breakdown both for the keeper and the taxpayer.

Potential solutions

Licences for movements on

There are certain situations over the course of a bTB breakdown when cattle need to be moved on to a TB restricted holding.  Farmers can apply to APHA for a licence in the following circumstances;

  • For welfare reasons e.g. calves moved on for suckler cows that have lost their calves or are producing excess milk
  • For breeding reasons e.g. moving a stock bull on to allow herd management to continue as far as possible
  • For economic reasons e.g. if the number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered for disease control purposes causes financial hardship or milk quota problems for the producer

APHA will assess each individual situation and carry out a VRA. If the conclusion of the VRA is that the risk is acceptable, a licence is issued.

DSC_0410

Approved Finishing Units (AFU)

If you are in the business of rearing and/or finishing cattle for slaughter and your business model depends on a continuous throughput of cattle, consider becoming an AFU. AFUs are biosecure cattle units approved by APHA which provide a route for rearing, fattening or finishing cattle from TB restricted and un-restricted farms.  They are approved in England (excluding the Low Risk Area) and Wales, and there are two types; non-grazing and grazing.

Normally herds should be Officially TB Free (OTF) before becoming AFUs but under exceptional circumstances, certain types of units may be allowed to convert to an AFU if they are already under TB restrictions. AFUs by definition operate under TB restrictions at all times as they can accept TB restricted cattle.  These units are not intended for pregnant animals and no breeding must take place within them.  AFUs are not licensed on fragmented holdings or holdings that have livestock other than cattle on them.

All onward movements from AFUs must be under licence either directly to slaughter or via an approved collection centre or slaughter gathering for TB restricted cattle. Movements to another AFU are only permitted in England.

Benefits

  • AFUs offer farmers who currently operate conventional rearing and finishing units advantages in terms of access to a wider range of livestock, as clear tested cattle can be sourced from TB restricted holdings, as well as cattle from OTF holdings
  • AFUs are not subject to TB trace testing, which is a constant demand on operators of finishing units which source cattle from many different farms
  • For non-grazing AFUs there is no requirement for statutory surveillance testing, although APHA have the option to test in exceptional circumstances e.g. high numbers of lesioned carcases identified at slaughter

Limitations

  • AFUs must have clear and discrete boundaries and are subject to strict biosecurity requirements (e.g. wildlife proofing of non-grazing AFUs), and this may require a significant financial investment
  • Grazing AFUs can only be approved in the HRA in areas where bTB is considered to be endemic in the local wildlife; therefore they cannot be approved in badger cull areas in England where effective control measures have been in place for at least 12 months
  • Grazing AFUs are subject to TB testing every 90 days

Click here for an APHA application form and guidance for AFUs in England and Wales

Specific contingency for dairy businesses

Unrestricted herds cannot be restricted solely for the purpose of receiving restricted cattle. If you are dependent on a continuous flow of heifers from another holding, the following contingency planning should be applied;

  • Identify an alternative source of heifers in advance of a bTB breakdown so that in the event of a breakdown in the heifer rearing unit, continuity can be maintained
  • Insure against loss of income if you cannot source adequate numbers of heifers and meet your milk production targets and/or negotiate a flexible deal with your buyer in the event of a bTB breakdown
  • Plan to move heifers several months before their calving date. In the event of a bTB breakdown on the main farm this may enable the first SIT to be completed 60 days after the start of a breakdown as licences cannot be issued before the first SIT. Remember that pregnant females are unfit for transport after the last 10% of gestation and for a week after calving under the animal welfare legislation
  • Reduce the risk of bTB breakdowns in both units by:

– Ensuring that your heifers are not reared in an area where bTB is endemic. You can check the local bTB situation in a particular area by looking at ibTB, an interactive map showing ongoing and closed breakdowns in England and Wales

– Ensuring that your heifers are not reared on a holding together with heifers from high risk herds or areas

– Identifying the most likely transmission routes of bTB to your herd (your vet will be able to help) and address these to reduce the risk of a bTB breakdown. Click here for information on protecting your herd against bTB

Bulls

If your business model depends on the movement of bulls on to your holding, ensure that you plan in advance and if possible move bulls on before any routine tests to mitigate the impact of TB restrictions if reactors are subsequently disclosed.

Movement of cattle off a TB restricted holding – the rules

 

  • TB restrictions prevent movements of cattle off a TB restricted holding except under licence
  • No movements of cattle off a TB restricted holding are permitted when there are reactors on farm (except movements directly to slaughter)
  • No movements of cattle off a TB restricted holding are permitted prior to completion of the first SIT, except movements directly to slaughter. The reason for this is that in many cases, the true extent and severity of a new bTB breakdown will not become apparent until completion of the first SIT. Therefore, the risk posed by cattle moving off cannot be fully assessed until the results of this test are available to APHA
  • If TB testing is overdue then no movements of cattle off a TB restricted holding are permitted (except movements directly to slaughter in England)
  • Movements of cattle directly to slaughter are permitted under a general or specific licence
  • Farmers can apply to APHA for a licence to move cattle off a TB restricted holding, however they can only move to certain destinations e.g. TB dedicated sale ‘Orange Market’, AFU, TB Isolation Unit or another TB restricted farm. All licence applications are assessed and a VRA is carried out. If the movement is deemed high risk then a licence will be refused
  • Cattle moving off a TB restricted holding must have passed a TB test within a certain time frame depending on the type of destination (see below)

 

Potential solutions

Research options in advance

Farmers need to consider their options for moving cattle off their holding during a bTB breakdown.  Outlets for cattle that need to be moved off whilst under TB restrictions (e.g. dairy calves, store cattle) should be researched in advance, or alternatively plans put in place to rear or milk these animals on farm until they can be moved.

Options for management of dairy heifers must also be considered in the event that they cannot be moved to the intended dairy before calving. Cattle movements will not be licensed from a TB restricted herd to an unrestricted herd. It is important to remember that a licence to move cattle off a TB restricted holding to another holding will not be issued if the VRA concludes that the movement is high risk.

Options for movement of cattle off a TB restricted holding under licence are summarised below;

 

Destination TB testing requirement* Types of cattle
AFU  (non-grazing vs. grazing) Clear test within 90 days of movement Calves (rearing AFUs) Stores and culls (finishing AFUs)
TB isolation unit   (can only take cattle from a single source over a limited period of time) Clear test within 30 days of movement All types; particularly useful for groups of dairy calves
TB dedicated sale (orange market) Clear test within 90 days of movement All types
TB approved slaughter gatherings (red markets) Clear test within 90 days of movement All types
TB restricted holding Clear test within 30 days of movement All types
Direct to slaughter No test required Cattle must not be reactors, inconclusive reactors or direct contacts All types

*Calves under 42 days old do not require testing

Click here for a list of AFUs in England and Wales

Planning for the ‘worst case scenario’

There is potential for holdings to remain under prolonged TB restrictions during a bTB breakdown and therefore a contingency plan needs to be in place for provision of feed, grazing, housing, labour etc. to avoid overcrowding and welfare issues.

Farmers with an agricultural tenancy agreement should plan ahead and consider how TB restrictions could impact on any planned or unexpected termination of the agreement.

Minimising the impact of TB restrictions on separately managed herds

Additional CPH numbers

If a cattle business has two or more separately managed herds (e.g. a dairy herd and beef herd), the farmer may wish to consider applying for one or more additional CPH numbers.  This could help to reduce the impact of any future bTB breakdown in one of the herds.

The following criteria must be met to apply for an additional CPH;

  • The herds must be Officially TB Free
  • The herds must be separated by location i.e. on a separate parcel of land with distinct and described boundaries
  • The herds must be separated by management i.e. to minimise the risk of spread of infection to the separate premises either by direct or indirect contact. Minimising direct contact involves adequate distance separation and prevention of nose-to-nose contact with other stock. Minimising indirect contact involves separate management practices, handling, feed and water management and separate facilities for each CPH, such as milking parlours
  • The herds may have movements between them, but these must be infrequent, will usually be one-way and must be compliant with pre-movement testing requirements and recorded on CTS
  • The new ‘herd’ will require a new herd mark and separate herd register
  • If the additional CPH straddles a different bTB risk area, the stricter of the risk area rules will apply to all parts of the new CPH

Click here for information on how to apply for an additional CPH number

slider3
Dairy calves in a loose house P1000202

Changes to CPHs and livestock movement rules in England

Defra is making changes which will simplify the rules on reporting livestock movements and how farms are registered. Farmers need to consider the implications of suffering a bTB breakdown when their cattle are located at temporary grazing.  From July 2016 cattle keepers using land on a temporary basis must apply to APHA to register that land use under one of the following:

a. Temporary CPH (tCPH)

Temporary CPH numbers last a maximum of one year with an option to renew. A tCPH will be permitted where it lies in a different bTB risk area to that of the applicant’s permanent CPH (pCPH).  The TB testing interval of the herds will reflect that of the area(s) where each of them is located, except tCPHs in the LRA, which will have the same testing interval as that of their pCPH.  TB pre- and post-movement testing rules will apply as usual for cattle movements between tCPHs and pCPHs.

Farmers need to consider the implications of suffering a bTB breakdown when their cattle are located at a tCPH. In this situation, APHA will not assume by default that cattle kept on tCPHs are separate epidemiological groups from the animals on the applicant’s pCPH and the default position is that TB restrictions are placed on the tCPH.  If the tCPH is found to be truly epidemiologically separate in terms of cattle movements and management following VRA, then restrictions may be lifted.

b. Temporary Land Association (TLA)

If a keeper temporarily uses land within 10 miles of a pCPH they hold, they have the option to associate that land to it via a TLA. TLAs last up to a maximum of one year with an option to renew.  A TLA will only be permitted where the piece of land is in the same bTB risk area to that of the applicant’s pCPH.  The land covered will be treated as part of that pCPH for all livestock recording and reporting purposes (i.e. movements do not need to be reported following movements of cattle between the land permanently included in their CPH and the land temporarily associated to it).

Farmers need to consider the implications of suffering a bTB breakdown when their cattle are located at a TLA. Cattle on a TLA will be considered to be part of the same epidemiological group as the herd on the applicant’s pCPH and TB restrictions will automatically be applied to the TLA.

Co-located farmed non bovine species

Farmers need to be aware of the implications of co-located farmed non bovine species on holdings that suffer a bTB breakdown in cattle. Farmed non bovine species such as South American camelids, goats, farmed deer, pigs and sheep are susceptible to bTB and are subject to statutory bTB controls. If possible, they should be located and managed separately from cattle to avoid any potential transmission of bTB between species.  Keepers should be aware that separate management of co-located non bovines does not necessarily guarantee that TB restrictions and testing will not be applied to them in the event of a bTB breakdown in cattle.

deer

In summary

 

  • Develop a contingency plan for bTB in conjunction with your vet
  • Consider the specific risks of TB restrictions on your farm business and how you can minimise them
  • Know your options for trading whilst under TB restrictions
  • Be proactive, plan for the worst case scenario and don’t think ‘It won’t happen to me’