Further measures to tackle bovine TB in England are being introduced from April 1 2017


Purpose of this document

To give an overview of the bovine TB (bTB) control changes for cattle herds announced in December 2016. More detailed information on each of the measures can be accessed via the links provided.

Why are these new control measures being introduced?

Included in the Government’s comprehensive bTB Eradication Strategy is a commitment to look for opportunities to improve TB controls in cattle. The measures outlined below will ensure better control of bTB risks in the High Risk Area (e.g. through more sensitive testing of TB breakdown herds) and enable us to make faster progress towards achieving Officially TB Free (OTF) status for counties in the Edge Area of England.

When will the new control measures be introduced?

Most will be introduced from April 1 2017. Some, however, will be phased in over the course of 2017/18.

What are the new control measures?

1. Wider use of interferon-gamma blood testing in the HRA

Compulsory gamma testing will be applied to supplement the skin test and help resolve TB breakdowns with lesion and/or culture positive animals in the HRA where any of the following three criteria are met:

  • Criterion 1: The APHA veterinary investigation concludes that the most likely bTB transmission route for the affected herd was contact with infected cattle and measures are in place to prevent further spread of disease from this source;
  • Criterion 2: The infected herd is located in one of the areas where at least two years of effective licensed badger population control have been completed;
  • Criterion 3: There is clear evidence that repeated skin testing of the herd has failed to resolve a bTB incident.

We’ve published more detailed information about this policy on the TB Hub website.

For more information on the attributes of the gamma test, read the article published on the TB Hub website.

2. Using ‘severe interpretation’ for skin tests on traced cattle

Tracing involves identifying and testing any cattle that may have moved off a new TB breakdown holding before it was placed under movement restrictions. Any cattle that moved off before the application of TB restrictions are traced and, if still alive, TB tested to minimise the risk of disease spread.

To reduce the risk of missing TB infected cattle, TB skin tests for cattle moved from lesion- and/or culture-positive TB breakdown herds will be read using ‘severe interpretation’. This is the same interpretation applied in the TB breakdown herds from which those tracings originate.  It entails lowering the cut-off point for a positive result, thereby reducing the likelihood of missing infected animals.

We’ve published more detailed information about using severe interpretation for trace tests on the TB Hub website.

3. Mitigating the risks from inconclusive skin test reactors

If an animal’s skin test result is not clearly negative or positive, the affected animal is temporarily classified as an inconclusive reactor (IR), pending a re-test 60 days later.

All IRs in the HRA and Edge Area (and in TB breakdown herds in the Low Risk Area) that have a negative result on re-testing will remain restricted for the rest of their life to the holding in which they were identified.

The only permitted off movements for those ‘resolved’ IRs will be to slaughter (either directly or via an Approved Finishing Unit).

Alternatively, cattle keepers will have the option to seek approval from APHA to carry out private gamma blood testing of resolved IRs at their own cost. If that test is negative, the animal would not be restricted.  If the test is positive, then the animal will be compulsorily slaughtered and compensation paid.  The holding will be placed under TB restrictions and subject to normal TB breakdown procedures and testing.

This measure will be introduced from 1 November 2017 and detailed guidance will be published on the TB Hub shortly.

4. More effective control of the movement of cattle from one TB breakdown herd to another

For business sustainability reasons APHA will sometimes license the movement of cattle between TB breakdown herds. To reduce the risk of bTB transmission between herds, such movements will only be permitted where the destination herd is due to have at least two Short Interval Tests (SITs) at severe interpretation.

We’ve published more detailed information about movements of cattle between TB breakdown herds on the TB Hub website.

5. Harmonise the scheduling of short-interval tests (SITs) in TB breakdown herds

We are introducing a more consistent and rigorous approach to ensure that in all herds affected by TB breakdowns, the SITs will take place at least 60 days after removal of the last test positive (reactor) animals.

We’ve published more detailed information about scheduling SITs in TB breakdown herds on the TB Hub website.

6. Re-define the Edge Area boundaries by incorporating as whole counties those that currently straddle the High Risk and Edge Areas of England

The counties of Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and East Sussex, which are currently split between the Edge Area and the HRA, will fall wholly into the Edge Area. This will have implications for the affected cattle herds in terms of their routine TB surveillance testing frequency (see below) and their eligibility for interferon-gamma blood tests.

We have yet to finalise a delivery timetable for this measure. Once a plan has been agreed with industry representatives we will publish more detailed information.

7. Extending six-monthly testing or radial testing to all parts of the Edge Area

Six-monthly surveillance testing will be applied in Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Cheshire (the south of which is currently in the HRA) the west of Berkshire, northwest Hampshire and west Derbyshire i.e. where incidence of the disease is highest and where radial testing may be impractical or administratively complex.

Radial testing around TB breakdowns with lesion and/or culture positive animals will be applied in all other parts of the new Edge Area, as currently happens in the Low Risk Area.

We have yet to finalise a delivery timetable for this measure. Once a plan has been agreed with industry representatives we will publish more detailed information.