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Defra chief vet answers criticism over impact of post-movement testing on shows

The new rules, which came in on April 6, will require farmers taking cattle from England’s Low Risk Area (LRA) to multi-day shows in the High Risk Area (HRA), Edge Area and Wales will to post-movement TB test them on their return.

 

The Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO) has been seeking clarity from Defra and is urging it to take a ’proportionate approach’ to ensure the rules do not unduly penalise farmers who show cattle.

 

Defra’s Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens has responded to the concerns in the following letter. 

 

See below for a summary of the rules. 

Defra chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens
Defra chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens

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Simplified livestock movement rules come into force Simplified livestock movement rules come into force

Letter from Defra CVO Nigel Gibbens

Dear Sir,

 

I’d like to address concerns raised by the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO) on the impact post-movement TB testing may have on farmers taking cattle out of the Low Risk Area (LRA) of England to multi-day shows.

 

Let’s start with the big picture – and that’s our 25 year strategy to rid England of bTB, our ambition to eradicate this disease which has cost taxpayers £500 million over the last decade, often costing individual farmers their livelihoods.

 

While compulsory post-movement testing of cattle entering the LRA came into force on 6 April, readers will remember we announced the measure last year after consulting farmers. As with all elements of that 25 year strategy, it is designed to counter the threat of bTB and is based on evidence.

 

Of course, I recognise the importance of Agricultural Shows. Highlights of the farming calendar, they are an important part of our rural heritage. Nevertheless, we know of significant and costly TB outbreaks in the LRA in recent years where attendance at shows has been the most likely cause of TB transmission into the herds.

 

We acknowledge arrangements may not be as straightforward for exhibitors this year and are meeting with the ASAO and National Beef Association soon to further discuss those arrangements. Already, some exemptions are available and post-movement testing can be avoided if shows attended outside the LRA involve a stay on the show ground of less than 24 hours and the cattle are not housed while they’re there.

 

However, I do believe we are right to introduce the measure, and to view it as part of that big picture - the need to work together to achieve TB-free status.

 

Nigel Gibbens CBE, Chief Vet

 

How the post-movement testing rules affect shows

The new post-movement testing rules require cattle moving onto a holding in the LRA from England’s HRA, Edge Area and Wales to be post-movement tested between 60 and 120 days after arrival. It is the farmer’s responsibility to organise and pay for the tests.

 

In terms of the impact, a Defra spokesman explained:

 

  • Cattle moved from herds in the LRA to non-exempt shows in the HRA, Edge Area and Wales will need to be post-movement tested when they return to the home farm
  • Non-exempt shows outside the LRA will be defined as those lasting for more than 24 hours and that house cattle overnight
  • Cattle are deemed to be housed when they are kept in a structure with a roof and walls which includes a marquee with sides
  • Shows outside the LRA that last for less than 24 hours will be exempt.

 

But the spokesman said Defra did ’not envisage’ requiring cattle moving to shows in the LRA from other areas having to be post-movement tested before they return home, ’given the impracticalities’, which would involve cattle remaining in the LRA for at least 60 days.

 

He said: “The existing legislation does allow us to require that but the licensing regime will enable us to allow movement back to the home premises straight after the show.”

 

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