Farmers have been urged to ‘take ownership’ of bovine TB control after a survey revealed 70 per cent of those in the high risk area (HRA) have not undertaken any activity to improve their biosecurity on-farm.
Measures such as badger-proofing cattle housing and ensuring animals are not able to make nose-to nose contact across boundaries are some of the measures farmers in the HRA have been advised to implement as part of Defra’s 25 Year Bovine TB Strategy.
Speaking at the TB Advisory Service’s (TBAS) inaugural conference dedicated to sharing knowledge and control of bTB, British Cattle Veterinary Association’s TB representative James Russell said some farmers were failing to make any changes.
He said: “Only 30 per cent of farmers in the HRA of the country had undertaken any activity to improve biosecurity on-farm.
“We are up against a bug which has adapted and evolved to survive inside its host without killing it and it is excreted in the millions every day.”
He said three out of the five actions on the five-point plan to decrease the risk of bTB were things farmers could have taken charge of on their own farms, working with vets, under existing legislation and without the need for any prior changes.
“We can take steps that will reduce our risk of getting bTB, but I am concerned we focus very hard on the idea that because we cannot eliminate our risk, there is no point in doing anything,” he told the conference at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester.
“Even where we have taken measures which should reduce our risk of bTB and we still suffer a breakdown, we feel anything we did was a complete failure.”
Mr Russell said some farmers had recognised some of their animals were worth far more than any compensation they may get for them and took special measures to protect them from infection, investing in measures such as wildlife-proof fencing.
An NFU spokesperson said while some farmers were paying for a range of measures to protect themselves against the disease and benefiting from the TBAS, all farmers should be taking steps to minimise risk.
The spokesperson said: “Not everything will suit every farm business and the question many cattle keepers have is which of these measures bring the greatest disease control benefits.
“It is important other elements of the Government’s comprehensive bTB eradication strategy are implemented at the same time. Using all available disease control options gives us the best chance of controlling and eradicating this devastating disease.”
■ Restrict contact between badgers and cattle
■ Manage cattle feed and water
■ Stop infected cattle entering the herd
■ Reduce risk from neighbouring herds
■ Minimise infection from cattle manure