News story

Bovine TB: Tough new rules to halt the spread of disease

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

David Heath announces new measures to stop the spread of bovine TB.

cattle in a farmyard

Tough new rules to stop the spread of bovine TB, including more targeted support for badger vaccination are being introduced.

Stamping out infection in areas where the disease is spreading, known as the ‘edge’ area, will benefit farmers and livestock businesses by an estimated £27million over 10 years by limiting the impact of bovine TB on their businesses.

Farming Minister David Heath said:

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. We must do everything we can to crack down on what is the biggest animal disease threat facing the nation.

We are taking tough and decisive action on TB at the frontier of this disease to stop and then reverse the spread. 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.

Analysis suggests that, if left unchecked, bTB could spread beyond the edge area to areas such as Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire, Merseyside and West Yorkshire by 2022.

The new edge area 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 6 months.
  • Herds that have their TB Free status suspended following skin testing will need to show two further clean tests.
  • Herds that have their TB Free Status withdrawn will all require gamma-interferon blood testing, which is a more sensitive test for spotting infection.
  • Breaking of Cattle Tracing System ‘links’ between the edge area 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 fund to cover up to half the costs of the first year of new vaccination projects.
  • New projects by the 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.

Michael Seals, Chairman of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England, said:

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. 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.

Further information

Further information about the new measures introduced for the edge area can be found in the TB Information Notes

A graphic showing the government’s approach to bovine TB, including the edge area measures, can be seen on our Flickr page

Published 12 August 2013