Good biosecurity and husbandry practices are important in reducing the risk of infection from bovine TB.

How to improve biosecurity

Moving cattle on to a farm increases the risk of introducing bovine TB and other diseases. Even in closed herds cattle can make contact with other cattle on neighbouring land, adding to the threat. There are a series of precautionary measures that cattle farmers can take to improve biosecurity on their holding.

Keep your cattle away from neighbouring cattle

  • fences between farms must be suitably stock-proof
  • a double boundary fence (3m or more apart) should be considered to prevent nose-to-nose contact on shared boundaries
  • where contact could occur between cattle on neighbouring farms (gates, troughs and other gaps) a temporary electric fence can just as easily form a suitable barrier to prevent opportunities for contact and possible disease spread
  • wherever possible, prevent access to shared watercourses such as ponds or streams and provide piped water to troughs instead.

Know where bought-in animals have come from

  • seek advice about animal health from your vet before purchasing cattle
  • always know the origins of bought-in cattle. Although the herd may be TB free, it may be located in a high risk area
  • ask for appropriate evidence of the testing history of the source herd as well as dates of previous TB tests for all bought-in cattle. The TB passport sticker is an easy way to identify when cattle last had a clear test (only if purchased in Wales)
  • incoming cattle should have been pre-movement tested if coming from a high risk area
  • be aware of the disease risk from hired or shared cattle, including hired bulls. Where possible, breed your own replacements and/or use Artificial Insemination (AI)
  • be aware of the potential risk of introducing infection when cattle are returning from common grazing or unsold from markets
  • isolate incoming cattle in appropriate isolation facilities. When using a paddock/field for this purpose, make sure that no contact can be made with other cattle in your herd or with neighbouring cattle.

General good practice

  • cattle housing should be well ventilated - do not overstock cattle when housed
  • provide cattle with a balanced and nutritional diet
  • do not feed unpasteurised, high cell count milk to calves
  • keep cattle away from freshly spread cattle muck/slurry and dispose of cattle bedding so that they cannot gain access to it
  • work with your vet to formulate a health plan for your herd
  • have pressure washers, brushes, hoses and disinfectant available and make visitors use them
  • thoroughly clean and disinfect farm machinery, particularly if sharing equipment with a neighbouring farm, and insist contractors do the same.

Manure management

  • studies have shown that Mycobacterium bovis can survive for up to 6 months in stored slurry
  • it is recommended that cattle do not graze pasture for 2 months after slurry / manure / dirty water has been applied on it.

More advice for cattle keepers on what they can do to help reduce the risk of TB infection in their herds is available from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (external link).

Think Before you Buy.

TB or disease like BVD or Johnes can have a significant economic and welfare impact on your farm. Bought-in cattle may introduce infection into your herd. You can reduce this risk by asking for information about the testing and disease history of an animal and the herd it comes from.

Before you buy cattle, ask the seller or auctioneer the following questions:

  • Have the animal(s) been pre-movement tested? If yes, when?
  • When did the herd last have a whole herd test?
  • Has the herd ever had TB? If yes, how long has it been TB free?

You should also consider the disease situation in the area that the cattle are from. Irrespective of where animals are purchased from it is important to know the TB history of the herd and the disease history of the animal.

Date of Pre-Movement Test (PrMT)

Ideally, cattle should be pre-movement tested. Alternatively, testing animals on arrival in their new herd reduces the risk of infection spreading.

Date of the last whole herd test

Every animal offered for sale to a TB-free herd should have tested negative for TB. In Wales, every cattle herd must be tested at least once a year. However, cattle from other parts of the UK may not have been tested for up to four years. Knowing a herd has recently tested negative may provide you with extra reassurance that it is truly TB-free.

How long the herd has been TB free

Buying cattle from herds with a history of the disease represents more of a risk than buying cattle from herds that have never had TB. Herds with a history of TB are around three times more likely to have a new incident than herds with no history of the disease.

Precautions you can take

If you think the cattle you are buying are a risk, there are precautions you can take:

Isolation

TB is most likely to spread between infected and uninfected animals during periods of close contact, particularly when cattle are housed. Keeping any new animal separate from the herd until it has tested clear for TB will reduce the opportunity for the disease to spread.

Post-movement testing

Before you introduce any new animal to the rest of your herd, particularly from areas where herds are not annually tested, it is good practice for it to be post-movement tested. This will help to make sure that it has not developed TB since its last test and reduce the risk of the disease spreading to the rest of the herd. Post-movement tests can be arranged through your private vet.

The aim of Cymorth TB is to provide support and advice to farmers whose cattle have TB. The purpose of this is to:

  • minimise the impact of the disease on their farm
  • prevent the disease from spreading.
  • Veterinary Map

  • Eradication Boards

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