LONDON – Determined to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB), tougher new rules, which includes more targeted support for badger vaccination, are being introduced, announced the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Eradicating infection in areas where the disease is spreading will benefit farmers and livestock businesses by an estimated £27million (US$42 million) over 10 years, DEFRA estimates.

“Bovine TB is a highly infectious disease that is devastating our dairy and beef industry and continues to spread across England at an alarming rate,” said Farming Minister David Heath. “We must do everything we can to crack down on what is the biggest animal-disease threat facing the nation.

“The measures we are introducing this year will help protect vast areas of England from the scourge of TB and take a significant step towards our goal of eradicating TB within 25 years,” he added.
If left unchecked, bTB could spread to areas such as Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire, Merseyside and West Yorkshire by 2022.

The new control measures include:
• Immediate skin testing of any herds in Cheshire and Derbyshire within a 3km radius of a farm with a new TB outbreak, and another test after six months.
• Herds that have their TB Free status suspended following skin testing must show two more clean tests.
• Herds that have their TB Free Status withdrawn will require gamma-interferon blood testing, which is a more sensitive test for spotting infection.
• Breaking the cattle tracing system ‘links’ between the edge area (areas where the disease is spreading) and high-risk areas, which allow farmers to move cattle between two areas without reporting the movement.
• Targeted use of the funding for badger vaccination in the edge area. Applications can be made for a share of a £250,000 (US$387,075) fund to cover up to half the costs of the first year of new vaccination projects.
• New projects by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) to estimate likely locations of badger populations in the edge area, and to assess how useful post mortems of badgers killed in road-traffic accidents would be in estimating the levels of TB infection in local badgers.
“We cannot allow bovine TB to continue to spread and condemn more farmers to the fate of dairy and beef herds in the south and west of England who have to live in constant fear of the disease,” said Michael Seals, chairman of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England. “The edge area measures are necessarily tough but will provide significant savings to farmers over the next decade as we can contain and push back the frontier of TB.”

Bovine TB is endemic in major parts of the south west, and there is growing concern about the spread of disease northwards and eastwards into counties within the edge area.The edge area includes Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, and parts of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and East Sussex.

The new measures will start to be introduced in October 2013. All farms in the edge area are already on compulsory yearly TB testing, and compulsory testing before the movement of any cattle from their farm.