'Farmers need better guidance on best bovine TB control measures' - farm union says

Stuart Roberts, vice president of the National Farmers' Union.
Stuart Roberts, vice president of the National Farmers' Union.
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Farmer are taking a wealth of biosecurity measures on farms to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis but need more help to make the biggest gains, the vice president of the National Farmers' Union said.

Hertfordshire farmer Stuart Roberts, who spoke exclusively to The Yorkshire Post after his appointment as a key office holder at the NFU earlier this year, defended the actions of his industry in taking vigilant actions to protect their herds against the disease.

Commenting on today's publication of the Godfray review into the Government’s 25-year bovine TB eradication strategy, Mr Roberts said: “Bovine TB is a devastating disease. Last year more than 33,000 cattle were slaughtered in England because of it and more than 3,800 farms that had been clear of the disease were affected by it.

“The NFU wishes to see the eradication of bTB as quickly as possible while retaining a viable cattle industry. To tackle this disease it is crucial that we use every tool available to us, including cattle testing, cattle movement controls, on-farm biosecurity, vaccination and control of the reservoir of disease in wildlife in areas where it is endemic.

“No farmer has ever wanted to see their herd affected by this horrible and complex disease. The industry has stepped up to work with Government in tackling bTB. Farmers are already taking a range of steps to protect themselves against this disease, with measures like securing feed stores, double fencing fields to stop nose-to-nose contact with cattle on adjoining farms, and preventing wildlife accessing buildings to help mitigate the risk of the disease spreading.

"The Godfray review suggests more can be done but the question many cattle keepers have is which measures bring the greatest disease control benefits."

Mr Roberts added: “The NFU was one of the driving forces behind the introduction of the TB Advisory Service, which provides farmers in those areas at risk from bTB with free bespoke advice and guidance on how to implement and improve biosecurity measures on their farms. We have promoted this service to our members and will continue to do so.

"We were also a key industry partner in the development and promotion of the biosecurity five-point plan, which provides farmers with advice on how to reduce the risk of bTB spreading, and the creation and development of the TB Hub website.

“Information to help farmers make informed trading decisions to further minimise the risk of bringing disease onto their farms is an important component in disease control. We believe the new Livestock Information Service, which the NFU strongly supports, will provide further access to information to inform risk-based trading.

“The review has said that evidence shows that badgers do transmit bTB to cattle and contribute to the persistence of the disease. The Chief Vet has said taking comprehensive action to prevent bTB infection of cattle from the reservoir of disease in local badger populations is an essential part of the Government’s 25-year strategy and proactive badger control is currently the best available option to do this, in conjunction with all other available measures.

“As the review notes, there are no easy answers to reducing levels of this devastating disease and we will be studying it in detail to see what further actions it suggests should be considered to help us achieve what we all want – a TB free England.”