The NFU has responded to a written statement made in Parliament today (18 December) by Defra Minister George Eustice on the implementation of the government’s strategy to eradicate bovine TB in England by 2038.
NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said:
“The Chief Vet has reiterated that the original cull areas are starting to see the disease control benefits of culling, with the number of new confirmed cattle breakdowns dropping by around 50 per cent, and has said the areas that continued culling this year will see the benefits of reduced disease in cattle over their four-year cull period.
“Natural England’s Chief Scientist has concluded that this year’s new areas have conducted effective culls and said that the outcome of this year’s operations shows industry-led culling continues to deliver the level of effectiveness needed to be confident of achieving disease control benefits.
“The change to annual TB testing from May next year for farms in the edge area that have been TB free for at least six years will be welcomed by those farmers whose herds haven’t suffered a TB breakdown for a significant time, if ever. But it is important that the policy conditions around earned recognition don’t create unfair trading environments which penalise farmers who are already struggling with bTB.
“Farmers across the country are already taking a range of steps to protect their businesses from this disease, through measures such as securing feed stores, double fencing fields to stop nose-to-nose contact with cattle on adjoining farms, and preventing wildlife accessing buildings. Many of these measures have additional benefits in terms of minimising the risk of other cattle diseases. The key for farmers is which biosecurity measures bring the greatest disease control benefits.
“The NFU was, and still is, a key industry partner in the creation and development of the TB Hub website. The news of a £25,000 investment is welcomed as it will improve the site and ensure it continues to be the go-to source for practical information for farmers and vets on dealing with bTB.
“We understand that Defra is planning to launch a bTB farm practices survey in the New Year to gain a better understanding of on-farm practices. We will be looking at exactly how and what they plan to do.
“Last year more than 33,000 cattle were slaughtered in England because of bovine TB and more than 3,800 farms that had been clear of the disease were affected by it.
“No one has ever said culling alone will eradicate bovine TB. To tackle bTB we must utilise a comprehensive strategy which uses all available options – cattle testing, cattle movement controls, on-farm biosecurity, vaccination of badgers in areas on the edge of disease spread, and control of badgers where their presence may contribute to the spread of disease. This gives us the best chance of controlling and eradicating this devastating disease.”