Most cattle and deer herds are tested regularly to check they are free of TB. TB tests are designed to measure an animal's immune response, either by a skin test on the animal, or by a laboratory test on a blood sample. Herds in low-risk areas, which send most animals to slaughter, may be exempt from testing, because any TB will be identified by slaughterhouse inspection.
The frequency of routine tests depends on the TB risk in a herd or area.
In areas of high risk, or where it is important to monitor the possible spread of the disease in wildlife, herds are tested annually. In other areas, testing may be scheduled less frequently. Drystock herds, which turn over large numbers of animals for slaughter, may not need to be tested because any TB will be found at slaughter.
You will be advised of your test frequency, and notified by either letter or phone call when your next TB test is due.
Dairy bulls are not specifically targeted for TB testing. However, dairy farmers leasing out dairy bulls should organise a TB test for the bulls prior to moving them and dairy farmers who lease in dairy bulls should insist on them be TB tested before accepting them onto their property. These TB tests are free.
Extra pre-movement tests are required when stock are being moved from areas deemed to have a greater than normal risk of TB infection, such as Movement Control Areas (MCA), or when herds already have an infected or suspended status.
If you are moving cattle or deer over 90 days old from a herd or property within a Movement Control Area, they must have a pre-movement test within 60 days prior to being moved. Stock going direct to slaughter do not need a pre-movement test.
Dairy animals being sent from an MCA or into an MCA for short term grazing can be given an exemption from pre-movement testing provided they can be TB tested soon after returning to the main property. Permits can be obtained by phoning the TB information line 0800 4 824 636.
Additional conditions apply to movements from herds with an infected status and for some herds with a suspended status.
Positive tests beef cattle and deer
All animals that show a positive reaction to a TB test will be tagged with an official AHB orange reactor ear tag. Depending on policies for the herd or area, the animals will either be directed to slaughter, or be eligible for re-testing. Your herd status may be changed from Clear (C) to Suspended (S) until the outcome of theses tests is known.
Reactor-tagged animals, including those being sent to slaughter, must remain on the farm until a permit to move is issued. Reactor tags must remain in the animals until they are slaughtered or cleared on a re-test.
When cattle are directed to slaughter, the AHB will make arrangements for transport and slaughter. Owners will be paid compensation according to current policy (65% of the fair market value of the animal).
When deer are directed to slaughter, owners must make their own arrangements for transport and slaughter at a licensed slaughter premises. Owners will not be paid compensation, in line with policies adopted by the deer farming industry.
If TB is found in animals at slaughter the AHB District Control Manager will be in touch to discuss what happens next.
Positive tests dairy cattle
In addition to the above conditions, the following applies specifically for dairy herds:
- When dairy herd supply animals from a clear herd status are directed to slaughter but no TB is subsequently found, then the amount of compensation paid will be 100% of the market value of the animal. The dairy industry pays this top-up sum.
- If animals have tested positive for TB following a re-test and have been directed to slaughter, then the milk from the suspect animal must not be put into the vat. For further information contact your dairy company supplier and talk to their milk quality advisor.
Closed Deer Herd TB test policy
The new Closed Deer Herd policy was introduced for TB testing to reduce testing for some deer farmers.
This is a voluntary participation programme starting from 1 March 2012, and is subject to receipt, and acceptance, of a completed eligibility form. The herdowner must also agree to the AHB’s terms and conditions and sign an accompanying declaration.
The Closed Deer Herd programme allows for herds of 100 head or more to be eligible for triennial testing. Herds that have less than 100 head will be eligible for biennial testing only. Conditions depend on the existing disease control area policy for the herd.
Ongoing participation in the programme will require an annual review to ensure the eligibility status is being maintained.
If you would like to become part of the programme, please review, sign and date the terms and conditions, along with the required documentation including a completed eligibility form and return to the Animal Health Board.