Yorkshire farmers need to be well-informed as threat of bovine TB refuses to go away

Bovine tuberculosis is not going away quickly. The badger culls may not hit the headlines as they once did, but the battle to eliminate the disease rages on.

The low disease level makes it even more incumbent for Yorkshire farmers to take precautions. Picture by Gary Longbottom.
The low disease level makes it even more incumbent for Yorkshire farmers to take precautions. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Encouraging though it may be that new herd breakdowns caused by bTB dropped by five per cent year on year in the 12 months to February, but so far this year there has still been 1,540 new breakdowns.

National disease advisor Sarah Tomlinson told me this week that there is no need for panic about bTB in Yorkshire, after all, of the new herd breakdowns in 2019 to date, just 13 have been in Yorkshire. However, the low level of disease makes it even more incumbent for our farmers to take precautions, she explained.

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The average cost of a herd breakdown runs into tens of thousands of pounds, a devastating scenario, but there are concerns that farmers in the low risk area – which Yorkshire forms a part of – know too little about how to effectively guard against the disease, and that whispers around auction mart rings may be spreading misinformation.

Rachel Hallos of the National Farmers’ Union put it to me that the Government-led national TB advisory service should be extended beyond high risk and edge areas to farmers in the low risk zone so that all farmers are armed with the knowledge they need to protect cattle.

I asked Defra if this was being considered but a spokeswoman would only say: “Bovine TB remains one of the greatest animal health threats to the UK, causing devastation for hard-working farmers and rural communities. That is why we are pursuing a range of interventions to eradicate the disease by 2038.

“As part of this, we are currently considering the report of the bovine TB Strategy Review, which examines progress on implementation and how we can improve, enhance and accelerate our approach to fighting bTB.”

The scope of the review includes making sure farmers receive the best advice from trusted sources. A Government response to the review will be published in due course. In the meantime, advice on bTB is available via tbhub.co.ukForewarned is forearmed.