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TOP TIPS: 10 ways to keep your cattle safe from bovine TB

As England and Wales battle to get on top of bovine TB and the disease closes in on Scotland, we have put together some top tips from the TB Hub on keeping your cattle safe and preventing the spread of infection.



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1. Ask for TB history information before buying new cattle

Try to get a full TB history of herds from which you purchase cattle to assess the level of risk and allow you to manage it.

 

As a minimum, you should ask for:

  • The date of the animal’s pre-movement TB test. Not all animals require pre-movement tests, but those which do should have been tested in the 60 days before their sale. Pre-movement testing reduces the risk of undetected infected cattle spreading disease.
  • The date of the seller’s last routine herd test. Knowing this date may offer additional reassurance if the herd has tested negative for TB recently, or it may prompt you to consider carrying out isolation and post-movement testing before introducing the animal into your herd.

2. Post-movement test cattle entering the herd and isolate all higher-risk cattle before they enter the herd

Infected cattle usually look healthy. Post-movement testing is another line of defence to detect infected cattle prior to introducing them into your herd.

 

When cattle enter your farm, it is recommended to isolate them from other cattle in the herd to ensure that they are not incubating any disease (not just TB) and give you time to test.

 

These recommendations apply to all cattle entering the herd, including newly purchased stock, hired bulls, and cattle which are already under your ownership but return from being away, for example from shows and markets.

3. Put in place effective barriers between neighbouring herds

Infection from neighbouring herds can occur via direct contact (for example nose-to-nose) or indirect contact, such as through contaminated equipment or aerosol spread during manure or slurry spreading.

 

It is important to maintain perimeter fencing which prevents direct contact with neighbouring cattle. The boundary should be as wide as possible, but at least three metres.

 

This is particularly important for farms with multiple land parcels as they have more neighbours and are at increased risk of being exposed to infection.

 

If possible, you should avoid grazing cattle in fields which are adjacent to fields that have livestock in at the same time or where manure or slurry is being spread.

4. Avoid sharing equipment, vehicles or grazing land

Indirect transmission of the disease can occur via equipment which has been contaminated.

 

Equipment for handling and spreading manure, or for handling and transporting livestock, is likely to pose a higher risk than equipment which has had no contact with animals or their excretions.

 

If sharing is unavoidable, equipment must be properly cleansed and disinfected. All debris should be visibly removed before disinfection, as disinfectants are less effective when applied to dirty surfaces.

 

The same precautions should also be taken for high-risk vehicles (e.g. carcase collection vehicles and livestock lorries) and personnel entering the farm.

 

Cleaning equipment and disinfectant should be available at entrances and visitors should use them.

5. If badgers visit your farm, introduce barriers to restrict their access to cattle, as well as badger-proofing feed stores, troughs and mineral licks

Open feed sources are an easy meal. Badger visits to farm buildings, especially feed stores, can be frequent.

 

Permanent electric fencing can be used to exclude badgers from farm buildings, or in some cases restrict access of badgers to grazing pastures.

 

With electric fencing, the strands of wire should be at 10, 15, 20 and 30 cm above the ground. Any fencing should not obstruct badgers from having access to their setts.

 

When considering the installation of permanent badger proof fencing, you will need to check whether this will have any impact on your ability to claim BPS (Basic Payment Scheme) payments on the area.

6. Do not put feed on the ground at pasture and clean up any spillages

Placing feed on the ground at pasture is an open invitation to badgers and should be avoided as a method of feeding cattle.

7. Use clean, fresh water and badger-proof water troughs

Non-mains water sources may be contaminated by infected livestock or badgers, if they are present. Mains water, or other clean, fresh water, should be used wherever possible.

 

Stagnant ponds and other areas where wildlife may drink should be fenced off.

 

Troughs should be regularly cleansed and disinfected to minimise the risk of cattle being exposed to contaminated water.

8. Only feed waste milk to calves if it has been boiled or pasteurised

Infected cows can excrete infections in milk, and calves fed milk from infected cows are at risk of developing bovine TB.

 

It is not recommended to feed milk from TB reactors or inconclusive reactors to calves or other livestock.

 

If it is necessary to feed your waste milk, then it should be boiled or pasteurised first to kill any bacteria.

9. Store manure for six months before spreading to kill bacteria

Infected cattle can excrete bacteria in their dung, contaminating manure and slurry.

 

Research has shown M. bovis bacteria can survive in manure for up to six months, so it is recommended to store manure for at least that long.

 

Manure should be stored in a secure structure which is inaccessible to domestic and wild animals.

10. Only spread manure on land which is not going to be grazed for at least two months, and avoid spreading in windy weather

This minimises the risk of infection by avoiding direct contact of contaminated manure with cattle.

 

The two month waiting period should also apply to grass if is to be cut for forage.

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