Further changes have been made to bovine tuberculosis (bTB) testing in Wales by Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies.

Irranca-Davies said the changes were made in response to industry feedback to simplify procedures without compromising the risk of disease spread.

Changes to TB testing in Wales were announced in January of this year and included reintroducing pre-movement testing of cattle or other bovine animals located in the Low TB Area (LTBA).

The further changes include the cessation of the routine testing of calves under 42 days in a bTB incident, unless the TB risk from these animals is considered high.

Routine surveillance testing in Approved Finishing Units (AFUs), or Licensed Finishing Units (LFUs), is also ceasing, unless the risk in considered high.

Default Skin testing of a cattle herd, following slaughterhouse suspicion alone, will cease to be a requirement.

Having considered the evidence, the Welsh government said it is content that a herd check test is no longer needed, if the sample from the suspect animal identified at inspection in a slaughterhouse is negative on laboratory testing. 

If, on the other hand, the slaughterhouse sample test result is positive, then the herd will be marked forward for a further test 60 days after the animal left the herd. This test will count as the first breakdown test.     

The final change concerns tracing tests, which will continue to reduce the risk of TB spread through movements of cattle from TB breakdown herds.

However, data analysis of trace tests, currently supports a move away from trace testing of all cattle moved in low risk situations.

TB testing

Irranca-Davies said the changes to the specific types of TB test involved have taken into account the resources required by farmers and vets and cost-effectiveness.

“Since my appointment in March, I have made a point of meeting farmers, vets and others across the industry to listen to their concerns around TB and the burden and anxieties these can cause,” he said.

“I’m pleased to be able to announce today that further changes – which have been made in response to industry feedback – are now in place.

“Recognising the impact on farmers, their families and their businesses is at the forefront of my mind.”

Irranca-Davies said he accepted all the Technical Advisory Group’s advice regarding the on-farm slaughter of TB reactors.

“We have worked alongside APHA and already implemented changes to the management of pregnant cattle.

“Our programme for eradicating bovine TB is centred around partnership working with our farmers and vets, this is crucial to reaching our shared goal of a TB-free Wales.”