TB Policy – England

The Government is committed to implementing a 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in England. The strategy was published in 2014 and includes tighter cattle measures, vaccination and badger culling.

> Click here for the Strategy for achieving Officially Bovine TB Free status for England

TB Strategy review

In February 2018 Defra’s Secretary of State commissioned an independent review of its bovine TB strategy. The review was led and overseen by Professor Sir Charles Godfray supported by a small working group. The review took place during spring and summer 2018 and reported to Ministers in October 2018.

The Government is considering all of the recommendations contained within the review report, and a Government response will be published in due course.

The review report can be found by clicking here

Changes to Bovine TB controls in England – May 2018

Further bovine TB (bTB) measures were announced on May 24 to help strengthen disease control and expand our options to tackle new bTB outbreaks.  We hope all stakeholders agree that strong action to eradicate the disease and protect the future of our dairy and beef industries is necessary, which is why the Government has decided on these further steps.

The Written Statement on the announcement can be found by clicking here

Badger control in the Low Risk Area

Following the recent consultation on the principle of allowing badger control in the Low Risk Area (LRA) of England, today we have announced our intention to enable badger control measures in the LRA in the thankfully rare cases infection in cattle herds can be linked to disease in badgers.

This will allow any such outbreaks to be tackled rapidly to prevent bTB from spreading further within the wildlife and cattle populations and thereby preserve the LRA’s low incidence status.

Badger control in the LRA is expected to be permitted only in very exceptional circumstances where veterinary epidemiologists judge an area to meet the criteria for a bTB ‘hotspot.

Any decision to carry out badger control in a specific LRA location will be taken by the Defra Secretary of State after considering all relevant scientific and veterinary advice. All the stringent licensing criteria set out in Defra’s Guidance to Natural England will need to be met by the cull company.

The summary of responses to the consultation can be found by clicking here

Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme

In early 2018 we received a number of applications for grants under the ‘Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme’ to carry out badger vaccination in the Edge Area of England. Three applicants were successful. We have now reopened the application window for more bids until January 25 2019. The projects will receive at least 50% funding towards their eligible costs. The scheme aims to create a protected badger population between the High Risk and Low Risk Areas of England, and to prevent further spread of the disease.

The new season for vaccination of badgers begins on 1 May 2019.


Enhanced cattle measures

Also announced on May 24 were some enhancements to TB cattle controls.

50% compensation for animals brought into a TB breakdown herd which then fail a TB test
From 1st November 2018 compensation at 50% of the average market price for same category cattle will be paid for any animal brought into a TB breakdown herd which then fails a TB test whilst that breakdown is still ongoing. This will mirror what already happens in Wales.

The compensation change is intended to encourage herd owners to take further proportionate steps to improve their disease controls.

Cattle keepers accredited under a scheme based on the standards laid down by the Cattle Health Certification Standards (CHeCS) will continue to receive 100 per cent compensation for all compulsorily slaughtered cattle, provided the herd is accredited at the time of the breakdown.  We would like to work with our stakeholders to identify additional means by which we can give so-called earned recognition for verifiable good biosecurity practices that improve a herd’s resilience to bovine TB infection.

Unclean cattle presented for slaughter
Cattle keepers are responsible for ensuring cattle they present for slaughter meet Food Standards Agency (FSA) cleanliness standards. From 1 November 2018 50% compensation paid for same category cattle will be paid for animals that are too unclean to be slaughtered. We do not want to see any unclean cattle presented to slaughter.  Cases for TB affected stock are already very few in number but we hope this measure will make it exceptionally rare.

Private slaughter of TB affected cattle
We want to reduce the financial risk for herd owners sending TB affected cattle which are to be compulsorily slaughtered to private slaughter.  Owners of TB affected herds can already take this option and send their cattle to a slaughterhouse of their choice taking a payment from the slaughterhouse operator in lieu of Defra compensation. But they risk receiving little or no payment if a carcase is condemned at the slaughterhouse. From 1st November 2018, cattle keepers who choose this option will receive compensation at the same rates as other TB affected keepers in respect of any compulsorily slaughtered animal when the carcase of that animal is condemned.

Six monthly testing
We announced in December that routine surveillance testing for higher risk herds in the High Risk Area (HRA) will take place at six monthly intervals to improve early detection and eradication of disease, and to prevent it spreading to new areas. Ministers have decided that this change will take effect from 2020.

We also said in December that some herds will remain on annual testing.  Ministers have decided that herds in the HRA that:

(i)   Have not had a TB breakdown in 6 years; and/or
(ii)  Are CHeCS accredited at level 1 or above

will continue to be tested annually. The first criterion above is a change to the one set out in our December announcement.  The change has been made to simplify these criteria.

Retention of in-calf reactors
Since 1 May 2018 cattle keepers have been able to apply to retain in-calf TB test positive cattle for up to 60 days to allow calving, subject to compliance with biocontainment/isolation conditions. Information on the requirements that need to be met can be found by clicking here. (See section on Delayed removal of in calf cattle).

Policy updates:

> Click here for a Q&A on managing TB breakdowns in the High Risk Area (HRA) of England.

> Click here for a Q&A on Pre-Sale Check Tests for 4 yearly testing herds.

> Click here for a Q&A on post-movement testing in the Low Risk Area (LRA) of England.

> Click here for Bovine TB: Improving TB cattle controls, including a proposal for statutory post-movement testing. A summary of responses to the consultation exercise and way forward.

As part of the strategy there are three management areas in England, reflecting regional variations in the epidemiology of the disease: the High Risk Area (HRA); the Edge Area; and the Low Risk Area (LRA). The long-term objective is to achieve Officially bTB Free (OTF) status for the whole of England, with an interim objective of securing OTF for the LRA and the lowest prevalence counties in the Edge Area. To achieve this, disease control is constructed around controlling all routes of transmission of the disease, cattle-cattle, cattle-badger, badger-badger and badger-cattle as well as spill-over into other susceptible species.

> Click here for a map of the three risk areas.

The Government’s approach includes a range of disease surveillance and control interventions, both statutory and non-statutory.

Current statutory controls include continuous surveillance for disease within cattle herds and at slaughter, pre-movement testing, removal of bTB test reactors and other cattle suspected of being infected with bTB from the national herd, and additional measures in bTB breakdown herds such as movement restrictions, and more sensitive tests to increase the chances of removing infection from affected herds and to reduce the probability of spread between herds.

Non-statutory controls comprise a range of measures designed to reduce the likelihood of introducing infection into cattle herds. These include: the risk-based trading scheme introduced in 2013 in response to the recommendations of an industry-led Risk-Based Trading Group to enable farmers to better understand and act on the risk of introducing disease when buying cattle; post-movement testing; biosecurity measures on farms against both cattle-cattle and badger-cattle transmission; reduction in badger populations where bTB is rife; and the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme to promote injectable vaccination of badgers against bTB in the Edge Area.

Click here for further information on what the government’s doing about TB, including current consultations.