England is set to apply for Officially TB-Free (OTF) status for more than half of the country next year – two years ahead of schedule – as the Government has said its strategy to tackle bTB continues to deliver results.

Dealing with bTB in England costs taxpayers more than £100 million a year and required the culling of 28,000 cattle in 2015 – the last full-year figures available.

Gaining OTF status for the low-risk area, covering north and east England, would boost trade opportunities and mean some herds require less regular bTB testing, Defra hopes.

First for England

Dealing with bTB in England costs taxpayers more than £100 million a year.

This would be the first time anywhere in England has enjoyed this status, potentially making beef exports from the UK more attractive for trade partners around the world. Achieving this status for the low-risk area is a key step in the Government’s 25-year plan for the whole of the UK to be bTB-free by 2038.

Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Gaining global recognition that more than half of England is TB-free will be a significant milestone in our long-term plan to eradicate this devastating disease, and will open up new trading opportunities for farmers.

“We have much still to do in the worst affected parts of the country, but this shows our strategy – combining practical biosecurity measures, a robust cattle movement and testing regime, and badger control in areas where the disease is rife – is right and is working.”

A Defra statement said: “Results published today confirm all 10 licensed badger control operations achieved successful outcomes. A consultation opens today [16 December] on the next steps for badger control in areas that have completed the first four years of intensive culling. This will mean the disease reduction benefits we anticipate are prolonged for many years to come.”

Wider measures

Other measures announced today as part of the Government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate bTB are:

  • Wider use of blood tests alongside the skin test in the high-risk area to provide a more sensitive testing regime in TB-affected herds, minimising the risk of leaving infected animals in herds.
  • A plan to introduce new, more coherent powers to manage the TB risk in pigs, sheep, goats, deer and camelids, to bring them more in line with cattle controls. This will include new statutory compensation arrangements for these species.
  • More frequent updates to the ibTB online tool, which allows farmers to view TB outbreaks close to their farm. From early 2017, the data will be refreshed every fortnight, rather than every month.

CVO Nigel Gibbens said: “This year, we have seen badger control can be delivered successfully on a wider scale. Further expansion in the coming years, alongside our robust cattle movement and testing regime, will allow us to achieve and maintain long-term reductions in the level of TB across the south-west and midlands, where the disease is widespread.”


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