Concerns over new bTB testing regime

Cattle farmers have raised concerns over a new bovine TB (bTB) testing programme, due to come into force in England on 1 May, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has reported.

The new testing will see the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) manage bTB testing on farms through outsourcing and contracting delivery partners. Under the current system, cattle are tested by vets working for private businesses who are trained, and appointed by the APHA.

Minette Batters, NFU deputy president, said concerns had been raised with Defra and the APHA: “It is vital that the changes are introduced as smoothly as possible with the minimum of impact on farmers. Throughout this process we have made our concerns very clear to Defra and the APHA, and farmers remain concerned about how the changes will impact on their ability to continue to use their own vet.

“It is important that if the introduction of the new system leads to problems which result in overdue tests, farmers are not fined under cross-compliance for something that is beyond their control. It is also important that farmers ensure they have safe and efficient testing facilities available to ensure testing can be carried out in an effective and timely manner.

Batters said regular communication between farmers and APHA would be vital to ensure the new system was introduced with the minimum of problems.

A spokesperson for APHA said: “The new approach to veterinary services delivery in England will be introduced gradually over the coming months. APHA has had regular review meetings with delivery partners and has been advised that vets and practices are signing up to become sub-contractors. We expect the delivery partners to be ready for the commencement of the contract.”

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