Edge areas of England

These TB cattle control enhancements are being introduced by Defra from January 2018 following a public consultation in August 2016.

Background

The Edge Area was established in January 2013 as part of the government’s Strategy for achieving Officially Bovine Tuberculosis Free (OTF) status for England by 2038.

For the purposes of bovine TB control, England was split into three different management regions:

  • High Risk Area (HRA) relatively high levels of bovine TB when compared with the Edge Area and LRA.  There are proportionally more repeat cases among herds and there is a recognised reservoir of infection in wildlife (badgers)
  • Low Risk Area (LRA) – very low levels of bovine TB and no recognised significant reservoir of the disease in wildlife. Most, if not all TB breakdowns are the result of undetected infection brought in through cattle movements. The government has applied for OTF status for the LRA of England
  • Edge Area – the buffer zone between the HRA and LRA which contains local disease fronts advancing eastwards from the HRA towards the LRA. The level of bovine TB in the majority of the Edge Area is much lower than in the HRA, but higher than in the LRA

The level of bovine TB varies between regions and that is why different control measures are applied in different parts of the country. Cattle herds in the Edge Area are subject to enhanced disease control measures to try to halt the spread of disease from the HRA, with the longer term aim of achieving OTF status for counties in the Edge Area.

Why are additional cattle controls required in the Edge Area?

Despite Defra implementing enhanced cattle controls in the Edge Area from 2013, the overall level of bovine TB is still increasing. In all Edge Area counties, infection is being introduced into herds as a result of purchase of undisclosed infected cattle, usually from the HRA but also from other parts of the Edge Area1.  Exposure to infected badgers or contamination from them is also believed to play a role in several counties.  For more information about bovine TB in the Edge Area counties and part counties, visit GOV.UK to access the Edge Area Summary Descriptive Epidemiology Reports.

In most Edge Area counties there is evidence that infected herds are being discovered sooner after infection is introduced than in the past, indicating some success in control measures1. However, it is essential that cattle measures are strengthened to reverse the trend of rising levels of bovine TB, and halt the spread of disease.

Edge Area changes

The following changes are due to be implemented from January 2018.

1. Re-classification of Edge Area counties

The following part Edge, part HRA split counties will be re-classified as fully in the Edge Area:

  • Cheshire
  • Derbyshire
  • East Sussex
  • Oxfordshire
  • Warwickshire

The current HRA parts of split counties will be incorporated fully into the Edge Area. Herds in these counties will be subject to mandatory interferon gamma blood testing in TB breakdowns with lesion and/or culture positive animals, as is the case for herds in the current Edge Area.

Eligibility for support from the new Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (known as BEVS 2) will also extend to these new parts of the Edge Area.

2. New cattle testing arrangements in the Edge Area

Herds in some parts of the Edge Area will be subject to six-monthly routine surveillance testing, while others will remain on annual testing supplemented with 3km radial testing around TB breakdown herds with lesion and/or culture positive animals.

The table below shows the current surveillance testing regime and new testing regime for each Edge Area county.

County Current boundaries Current testing regime(s) Changes to boundaries and surveillance testing regimes
Berkshire Fully Edge Annual Berkshire West will be on six monthly testing
All other areas in Berkshire will be on annual with radial testing
Buckinghamshire Fully Edge Annual Annual with radial testing
Cheshire Part Edge & part HRA Cheshire South (HRA) Annual Fully Edge and six monthly testing
Cheshire North (Edge) six monthly testing NO CHANGE in testing regime
Derbyshire Part Edge & part HRA Derbyshire West (HRA) Annual Fully Edge and six monthly testing
Derbyshire (Edge) Annual with radial testing NO CHANGE in testing regime
East Sussex Part Edge & part HRA Annual Fully Edge – Annual with radial testing
Hampshire Fully Edge Annual Hampshire North West will be on six monthly testing
All other areas will be on annual with radial testing
Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire Fully Edge Annual Annual with radial testing
Oxfordshire and Warwickshire Part Edge & part HRA Annual Fully Edge on six monthly testing

In summary, these changes amount to:

  • Routine six-monthly herd testing 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 the level of 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 in all other parts of the new Edge Area, as currently happens in the LRA

Different testing regimes in parts of Berkshire, Derbyshire and Hampshire reflect differences in the level of disease across these counties. For a list of parishes that will move to six-monthly testing in these counties see the TB information note.

How will these changes help control bovine TB in the Edge Area?

Incorporating the current HRA parts of split counties fully into the Edge Area will mean that herds in these counties with higher levels of bovine TB will be subject to the new enhanced surveillance testing regime. Additionally mandatory interferon gamma blood testing will apply to TB breakdown herds with lesion and/or culture positive animals.

Six monthly testing in Edge Area counties with higher levels of bovine TB aims to identify infected herds earlier and reduce the risk of TB spreading. Routine six monthly testing has proved useful in finding disease earlier in the Cheshire Edge Area, and greater certainty around TB testing dates means it is easier for cattle keepers to plan and manage their resources throughout the year.  Six monthly testing also means that keepers have a second Defra-funded test each year that could be used as a pre-movement test for cattle that they wish to sell or move to another holding.

Annual testing in Edge Area counties with lower levels of bovine TB will be supplemented with radial testing to check for spread to neighbouring cattle herds within a 3km radius of TB breakdown herds with lesion and/or culture positive animals.

The enhanced surveillance and control measures in the Edge Area will protect other cattle herds and reduce the risk of establishment of new infection in badgers.

How will these changes be introduced?

The changes to testing in the Edge Area will be phased in from 1 January 2018.

If you are in an area which will be subject to annual testing supplemented with radial testing, Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) will notify you of the change in writing. You do not have to do anything and your annual whole herd testing will be unaffected. You will receive notification from APHA if and when your herd requires radial testing.

If you are in an area that will be subject to six monthly testing, APHA will notify you of the change in writing. Once your herd has completed the routine whole herd test already scheduled for 2018, a six month test will be scheduled.  At this point keepers will be able to discuss their testing windows with APHA.  Please see the TB information note for more information.

Q&A

General

What is changing?

The part Edge, part HRA split counties of Cheshire, Derbyshire, East Sussex, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire will be re-classified as fully in the Edge Area.  Herds in these counties will be subject to mandatory interferon gamma testing in TB breakdowns with lesion and/or culture positive animals, as is the case for herds in the current Edge Area.

Additionally, herds in some parts of the Edge Area will be subject to six-monthly routine surveillance testing, while others will remain on annual testing supplemented with 3km radial testing around TB breakdown herds with lesion and/or culture positive animals.

Please refer to the table above for more details on the new surveillance testing regimes, and the TB information note for information on how the testing will be implemented.

When will the changes be introduced?

From 1 January 2018.

Why are these Edge Area changes being introduced?

There is an overall trend of rising levels of bovine TB in the Edge Area despite enhanced surveillance testing and cattle controls introduced in 2013.  This trend needs to be reversed so that there remains a good prospect of Edge Area counties obtaining OTF status as soon as possible as part of the government’s Strategy for eventually obtaining OTF status for the whole of England.

If the disease is endemic in wildlife in the Edge Area and is not being controlled, why is Defra introducing more cattle measures?

Although wildlife involvement is suspected in some parts of the Edge Area, there is no evidence that bovine TB is endemic in wildlife in all of the Edge Area counties. The Edge Area Badger Survey of road kill badgers carried out by the University of Surrey and the University of Nottingham will provide further information about levels of TB infection in badgers.

Licensed badger culling was completed in one area in Cheshire in 2017 where the predominant source of infection for TB breakdown herds is infected badgers. Natural England will consider new applications for licensed badger culling in Edge Area counties. Additionally, all Edge Area counties are eligible to apply for the Badger Edge Vaccination Scheme (known as BEVS 2).

In 2016, purchase of undisclosed infected cattle was the main source of infection for TB breakdown herds in four of the Edge Area counties, and an important source for all other counties except Derbyshire1.  Cattle controls have been demonstrated to detect infection earlier and reduce spread of disease, which is why they are being enhanced further in the Edge Area.  In addition, cattle keepers are encouraged to protect their herds by improving on-farm biosecurity and considering TB risk when purchasing animals.

Why are there split testing regimes in some Edge Area counties?

The levels of bovine TB vary considerably across some Edge Area counties.  Therefore different surveillance testing regimes and cattle control measures are needed to strike a balance between robust disease control and too much testing of cattle herds.

Can the private vets cope with this extra TB testing?

The Veterinary Delivery Partners have provided assurances that they have sufficient resource to complete all the required testing.

Who will pay for the six monthly and radial tests?

These are government funded TB tests.

How are the changes in TB testing being phased in?

Please see the TB information note for more information on how the new testing arrangements will be introduced in the Edge Area.

What routine testing is required in Approved Finishing Units in the Edge Area? Will these units be affected by the changes?

Approved Finishing Units (AFU) are high biosecurity units and provide an outlet for rearing/finishing of clear tested cattle from TB restricted holdings without such facilities. Only AFUs without grazing are permitted in the Edge Area and the default position is that no routine surveillance testing is required in these units.  However, APHA retain the option to test in exceptional circumstances, for example if there is extensive evidence of TB found at slaughter.  Further information on AFUs is available on the TB Hub and GOV.UK

Will my herd be eligible for interferon gamma blood testing?

The interferon gamma blood test supplements the tuberculin skin test to maximise the probability of detecting infected animals in TB breakdown herds.  Gamma testing is a mandatory test for all TB breakdown herds located in the Edge Area which have animals that are lesion and/or culture positive.  For more information about the gamma test see the detailed guidance on the TB Hub.

Will Defra take account of my herd’s bovine TB history and the steps I’ve taken to improve my resilience to infection?

Defra is considering responses to a separate consultation that included a proposal to introduce six monthly testing in all HRA counties.  That consultation also proposed that we should allow less frequent testing of some herds, depending on their TB histories, purchasing practices and TB herd health accreditation.  Defra envisage that any decision to allow less frequent testing in the HRA would also apply in the Edge Area. However, it is unlikely that, if agreed by ministers, this measure would be introduced before January 2019.

Will holdings in the Edge Area be subject to six monthly testing or radial testing requirements forever?

No. Defra is developing criteria which will determine when switches from radial to six monthly testing (and vice versa) in Edge Area counties should be triggered.  We hope that improvements in the disease situation in counties (or part counties) subject to six monthly testing will allow these counties to eventually revert to annual testing.

Six monthly testing

What is the testing window for a six monthly test?

60 days, the same window as a routine whole herd test.

How do I know if my herd is moving onto six monthly testing?

Please see the table above which outlines the current testing regime in Edge Area counties, and the new testing regime being introduced from January 2018. If your herd is located in one of the split counties (Berkshire, Derbyshire and Hampshire) then please see the TB information note for a list of parishes that will be subject to six monthly testing. APHA will advise you in writing if your herd will be subject to six monthly testing.  

My herd is moving onto a six monthly testing regime. Can I change my current test date to make the timings more suitable for my business?

Once your herd has completed the routine whole herd test already scheduled for 2018, a six month test will be scheduled.  At this point you will be able to discuss your testing window with APHA and they will as far as possible seek to accommodate your preferred testing dates.  Please see the TB information note for further information.

Can my six monthly test count as a pre-movement test?

Yes.

Radial testing

What is a radial test?

It is a TB surveillance test around all new TB breakdowns with lesion and/or culture positive animals.  The purpose of the test is to check neighbouring cattle herds for spread and to help identify any undetected source of infection in the locality.  All cattle holdings falling within, or straddling, a 3km radius circle from the new TB breakdown will be identified and required to undertake an immediate radial test of all the cattle on the holding aged 42 days or older.  Herds are not placed under TB restrictions whilst awaiting radial testing.

How will I know if my herd is required to undertake a radial test?

Cattle keepers will receive a test notification letter from APHA informing them that their herd requires an immediate radial test, specifying the date by which the test is due.

What is the testing window for a radial test?

60 days. The window for a radial test usually starts immediately on receipt of the notification from APHA unless a clear herd test has been completed within the previous two months.  In such cases, the radial test would be deferred until six months from the date of the last herd test.

When will the next test be due after the immediate radial test?

Providing the immediate radial test (RAD) is completed with negative results, the herd will require a further radial test (RAD6) six months after the immediate test was carried out.  Thereafter the herd will revert to routine annual surveillance testing.

Can a radial test count as a pre-movement test?

Yes.

 

Testing for holdings spanning areas undergoing different testing regimes

What testing regime would a herd be under if they are grazing on land which spans areas undergoing different testing regimes e.g. grazing an area subject to annual testing supplemented with radial testing but their permanent CPH is in a six monthly testing area?

The six monthly testing regime will apply, as the default testing regime across a border is for the more rigorous regime to apply.

What testing regime would a herd be under if they are grazing in an area subject to six monthly testing but their permanent CPH is in an annual testing (with radial) area?

Again, the six monthly testing regime would apply, as the default testing regime across a border is for the more rigorous regime to apply. 

If a TB breakdown occurs in a six monthly testing area but is within 3km of holdings in a radial testing area, will those holdings be subject to radial testing?

No.Radial testing will only be carried out on holdings in the radial testing area.  However, contiguous testing (CON) may be required if deemed necessary, at case vet discretion e.g. where a new TB breakdown poses a very high risk to neighbouring herds, particularly where the breakdown is close to the boundary of a different testing regime.

Reference

  1. Bovine Tuberculosis in England in 2016 Edge area summary descriptive epidemiology report