Supporting detail:

Reducing bovine TB through controls on cattle

There is a range of controls in place to reduce the spread of TB between cattle. These controls form the basis of our Strategy for Achieving Officially Bovine Tuberculosis Free Status for England.

These controls include:

  • annual testing of cattle herds in the high risk and edge areas of England and background four-yearly testing of herds in the low risk area
  • routine inspection of cattle carcasses at slaughterhouses for signs of TB
  • compulsory TB testing of cattle 42 days old and over before they move out of annually tested herds, except for animals going to slaughter
  • rapid removal of cattle which test positive for TB, together with movement restrictions and more frequent testing of the rest of the herd, to control and eliminate the infection
  • a strategy for early detection of TB in herds in the edge area, where the incidence of disease is increasing
  • a voluntary cattle trading scheme under which details of TB history are made available when an animal is sold, so that buyers can make informed decisions about risk
  • promotion of good biosecurity practices
  • tougher penalties for those who do not test their cattle on time
  • improved case management of herds which have recurring or long-term TB breakdowns

Changes to cattle control measures are published through TB Information Notes

Testing for bovine TB

The basic principle of our bovine TB test and slaughter programme is to identify and remove infected cattle as early as possible, and minimise the risk of the disease being transmitted to other cattle or wildlife.

The main screening test for TB in cattle in Great Britain is the single intradermal comparative cervical tuberculin test (SICCT). This is commonly known as the tuberculin skin test, which is used throughout the world to screen cattle, other animals and people for TB. It’s the internationally accepted standard for detecting Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) infection in live animals.

The interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) blood test is a laboratory-based test for the diagnosis of bovine TB in cattle. It is approved in the EU for use in conjunction with the skin test in specific circumstances where it is needed to increase the diagnostic sensitivity (the probability of detecting infected animals).

More information on testing for TB in your herd.

Routine herd surveillance testing

Routine herd surveillance testing is carried out at the government’s expense. All herds in England are required to be tested using the tuberculin skin test:

  • annually in areas where the risk of disease is highest and in the edge area, and in higher-risk herds situated in the low risk area
  • every 4 years, in the low risk area

More information is available about TB testing:

Controls if evidence of TB is found in a herd

A herd’s officially tuberculosis-free (OTF) status is suspended or withdrawn if evidence of TB is found in at least 1 of the slaughtered animals.

Some limited movements from restricted herds are permitted under licence to help farming businesses and protect animal welfare. More information is available in Information on managing TB in your herd.

Pre-movement testing

All cattle 42 days old and over, which are being moved from annually tested herds, must test negative for TB in a skin test 60 days before they are moved. Some limited exceptions are laid down in the Tuberculosis (England) Order 2014.

Certain limited movements of cattle within officially TB free herds held in annually tested sole occupancy authorities can be made under a general licence.

More information is available in the following documents:

Compensation for cattle

Compensation is paid to owners of cattle compulsorily slaughtered for bovine TB control purposes. Details of compensation rates are available in our detailed guide on cattle compensation rates.

Post-mortem testing

Cattle carcases are inspected by the Food Standards Agency for the presence of bovine TB lesions. Any cases identified in abattoirs will be traced back to the herd of origin.

Biosecurity and husbandry

Maintaining good biosecurity and husbandry practices is important in helping to reduce the risk of bovine TB transmission. Even if TB has never been found in individual herds, it is advisable to take precautionary measures against possible infection from wildlife (mainly badgers) and from cattle (purchased or hired animals and any neighbouring cattle herds).

See information on biosecurity and husbandry.