DNA tagging for cattle that test positive for TB after scam claims

Cattle which test positive for bovine TB are to be “DNA tagged” to stop farmers illegally swapping ear tags to keep hold of productive but diseased cows, the Government said yesterday.

There is evidence that some cattle farmers in the South West and Midlands may be keeping productive dairy cows which have tested positive for the disease in their herds by swapping their ear tags to less productive animals.

The less productive cattle are then sent to slaughter under rules designed to reduce spread of the disease, and the farmer is compensated for their loss.

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The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said retaining infected cattle on farms increased the risk of transmitting TB to other herds and to wildlife such as badgers which can further spread the disease.

But there is no health risk to people as milk from herds under TB restrictions has to be pasteurised.

From mid-April, any cattle testing positive for TB will immediately be tagged and a sample of its DNA retained by Government agency Animal Health.

Samples will be cross-checked at random or if the farmer is suspected of fraud.

The move comes after an investigation by Gloucestershire Trading Standards which reviewed TB cattle sent to two slaughterhouses, raising concerns over potential illegal activity.

Almost 35,000 cattle were slaughtered last year as part of efforts to control the disease, which is a particular problem in some areas including Wales and the South West.