The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has called for farmers to benefit from increased compensation, longer testing intervals and greater opportunities to trade if they participate in a proposed earned recognition scheme to tackle bovine TB.
In a new policy position paper, the group said offering these rewards would encourage farmers to engage and give them a sense of control over the process of disease eradication.
The document referenced research from XL Farmcare UK, which analysed the feelings of farmers in England towards bovine TB and found there was a sense of negativity and powerlessness which made it difficult to stimulate positive action – a barrier the BVA hopes can be overcome with the earned recognition approach.
In a blog for Farmers Guardian, junior vice president of the BVA, James Russell, said: “Farmers who have undertaken to follow all the right practices in their farming approach must be rewarded for doing so.
“This concept of earned recognition is not new to farming, and we can see that applying it to TB policy based on actions rather than focusing entirely on TB history will help to put the control of this disease firmly into the hands of the people who are best positioned to manage it – the farmer and their vet.”
The policy paper also recommends Ministers should explore how to introduce greater data sharing between Government vets and private vets, that long-term funding for dedicated TB advisory services should be secured and that badger culling should continue, provided it is done in a humane and effective manner and does not cause perturbation.
Under the BVA’s proposals, only farmers able to demonstrate appropriate implementation of biosecurity best practice and risk-based trading as part of the earned recognition approach would be able to take part in culls.
Gloucestershire suckler producer David Barton, whose battle with bTB over the years has been well documented by Farmers Guardian, said: “My biggest concern with earned recognition is that you can do absolutely everything, including having the highest level of biosecurity on your farm, and still go down with bTB.
“While I agree with what the BVA is saying, it will be difficult to quantify.
“As a suckler breeder, I have a very different disease risk profile compared to a short-term finisher, so how would that work with earned recognition?”
Mr Barton, whose herd threw up two reactors in a gamma test last week, said bTB was unlike other diseases, such as BVD.
He added: “If you hit BVD hard you will eradicate it. bTB is different to that.”