When COVID-19 took hold of the UK in March 2020, a range of measures and restrictions were brought in to protect the health of farmers, animals, vets, and consumers. As health advice evolved, so did measures relating to bTB testing and the movement of cattle.
As we embrace 2021, what is happening this year when it comes to bTB tests during the Coronavirus pandemic?
Pilgrims Vets’s farm vets have read through DAERA’s (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) FAQs, updated 26/10/2020, to bring you a summary of the key points for the start of 2021:
- On December 1st 2020, movement restrictions relating to overdue bovine TB tests returned to being applied 7 days after the test was overdue.
- From 05/01/21 restrictions state that herds with a bTB test 37 days overdue are not permitted to purchase new bovines or move cattle to slaughter.
- Calves under 180 days of age are temporarily exempt from bTB testing, where tests cannot take place safely i.e. where social distancing cannot be achieved.
- Untested calves 42-180 days old at time of test will be restricted and must be tested before being sold. Untested calves less than 42 days old at time of test can be sold if the herd test is clear.
- Cattle herds placed under movement restrictions whilst waiting for an overdue bTB test to be completed may apply to DAERA for a licence to move cattle off the holding in exceptional circumstances.
- Whole herd movement restrictions are automatically placed on cattle herds that become overdue with their TB testing. Their official TB free status is suspended as the TB status of the herd is unknown and is a potential risk to other herds. Restrictions apply 7 days after the test due date.
- To minimise the risk of herds going down with bovine TB during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should follow all the normal rules about biosecurity and avoid buying cattle unless you’re confident the seller’s herd is TB free.
- The position regarding bTB testing during the COVID-19 pandemic is being kept under review taking into account feedback from herd owners, vets and the experiences of other jurisdictions. DAERA’s position will continue to be primarily based on the advice of the Public Health Agency.
Has the Coronavirus pandemic affected bTB testing on your farm or smallholding? If you have specific questions that aren’t covered here, feel free to contact our farm vets for advice.