Farm trials for ‘game changer’ bovine TB test and vaccine

Farm trials for ‘game changer’ bovine TB test and vaccine

A vaccine and new test to tackle bovine tuberculosis is being trialled on farms in England as the country’s government shifts away from its reliance on badger culls to tackle the disease.

As it stands, Bovine TB costs UK taxpayers around £100million a year, including compensation for farmers whose cows are slaughtered when infected.

While the strategy in England has included culling badgers, a protected species that can transmit the pathogen to cattle, there are no such culls in Northern Ireland where the focus is on farm  biosecurity.

The New Scientist magazine reported the UK’s chief vet as saying the new approach could be a “game changer” for farmers in lower-income countries, too.

It revealed the UK government’s Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs is now trialling a new skin test that can identify proteins present in infected animals that aren’t present in vaccinated cows, enabling the two to be told apart for the first time.

This would enable infected animals to be removed from herds and vaccinated animals to be exported for trade.

The New Scientist said trails are under way on a farm in Hertfordshire with results available later this year.

Edwin Poots says the current cost of bovine TB is unacceptable

Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, said “a realistic timetable” would see a cattle vaccination programme launched around 2026.

Meanwhile, farmers in Northern Ireland farmers are due to get the first outline of DAERA’s  new bovine TB strategy shortly.

The disease has blighted the farming industry here for decades and the latest official figures (up to April 2021) showed herd incidence up to 8.86% from 7.88% in the previous 12 months.

Agriculture minister Edwin Poots said the proposals will include recommendations covering “six key areas, ranging from herd health management and research to those more complex issues, such as wildlife intervention”.

A DAERA spokesperson said: “Bringing forward a new TB Eradication Strategy is a top priority for the department.  The minister has made it clear that he wishes to take decisions on implementation of a new approach to tackle this disease as soon as possible.

“The strategy will build upon the recommendations made by the independent TB Strategic Partnership Group in 2016 and the public consultation on the department’s response to these recommendations.

“A business case considering the Strategy has been finalised and the minister has considered officials’ recommendations.  It is intended to consult on the minister’s preferred approach in early July and will then move forward with the implementation of the strategy as soon as practicably possible.”

The disease currently costs taxpayers in Northern Ireland £36 million a year.

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