Herds suffering long-term bovine tuberculosis (bTB) breakdowns are to be considered for a more tailored and hands-on management approach in partnership with farmers’ private vets.

According to the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), the plans to become a “standard business as usual activity” in both England and Wales, follows feedback from stakeholders and recognises a “more proactive approach” is necessary to combat the disease.

From yesterday (February 3, 2014), herd breakdowns lasting more than 18 months will be subject to what the agency calls “enhanced case management procedures” aimed at helping herd owners regain official bTB-free status, while reducing the risk of future breakdowns.

This approach seeks to:

  • enhance support for cattle keepers;
  • identify and deal with the factors causing persistent infection;
  • reduce risks posed to contiguous premises;
  • reduce the impact on farming businesses and general taxpayers;
  • monitor and review the effectiveness of measures applied; and
  • use the skills and knowledge gained to inform management of future breakdowns.

According to the agency, the farms chosen to take part may be based on:

  • number of reactors and compensation costs;
  • results of postmortem examinations;
  • length of breakdown;
  • herd size and dynamics including movement volumes;
  • herd or business history; and
  • local epidemiology.

Trained AHVLA veterinary officers will be assigned to each case and are to consider a number of issues to determine their approach, including internal movement controls, test interpretation, testing patterns, trading options, support from others, such as the South West TB Farm Advisory Service and The Farming Community Network, and epidemiological support work.

Official vets will be consulted for local knowledge and herd health issues that may be of significance, said the AHVLA. They will also be invited to attend an on-farm meeting, for which they will be paid.

The agency is to measure the success of these enhanced actions, it said, by pairing herds for epidemiological comparison, as well as carrying out farmer questionnaires, quantitative measures and internal case reviews.

For more information, visit the AHVLA’s website.

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