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Finishers Could Be Relieved Of TB Tracer Testing

24 May 2011

UK - Constant bovine tuberculosis (TB) tracer tests on cattle finishing units, even when cattle go straight from farm to slaughter, are exasperating and time consuming, says the National Beef Association (NBA).

However they could be scrapped, at individual farm level, after Defra has examined a number of suggestions put directly to the National Beef Association, which is looking for a response in time to produce a report to both Defra and Animal Health before June 13th.

Essentially Defra has offered the NBA a trade-off. It is ready to remove constantly vexing TB tracer compliance from any finishing unit that volunteers to forgo compensation if a reactor is discovered after slaughter.

However Animal Health, which is working with governments in Scotland and Wales as well as England, also wants to test the industry response to a suggestion that tracer tests would no longer be necessary on farms that have agreed to waive compensation for reactors – as long as they also become Approved Finishing Units (AFUs) with off-movements going direct to slaughter.

“There will be no compulsion if these new arrangements are agreed. Finishers who calculate that missing out on compensation for post-slaughter reactors is too much to pay for removing the inconvenience of TB Tracer testing can continue as they do at present,” explained NBA director, Kim Haywood.

“What has still to be decided is what else, apart from giving up compensation on reactors, may be required of finishers who want to wipe tracer tests off their work programme for ever.”

Animal Health, formerly the State Veterinary Service, wants to make sure efforts to curb TB spread are not compromised by finishers giving up Tracers testing – which is why it wants to gauge industry reaction to its other suggestions.

“It also keen to discover the industry’s response to the proposition that pre-movement testing should apply to all cattle movements and not just be imposed in 1-2 year TB testing parishes,” said Ms Haywood.

“On top of that it would like information on farm structures in the beef finishing sector. For example how many finishing farms graze cattle, how many have open yards, the number that only have covered housing, the proportion which focuses exclusively on bull beef production, and how many farms are likely to volunteer for movement restriction in exchange for an exemption from Traces testing?”

“The NBA wants to be able to go back to Defra before June 13th with accurate information on finishing farm structures as well as a genuine cross-industry sample of opinion on whether it is worth dropping TB Traces testing in exchange for becoming an AFU and agreeing that off-movements can only be direct to slaughter.”

“It will be asking members and visitors to Beef Expo 2011 to fill in the same type of questionnaire which is outlined below. The answers will be used to negotiate an opportunity for finishers to drop Tracer testing in exchange for a TB related control measure that inconveniences them less.”

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