Farmers’ anger at annual TB testing

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Frustrated farmers met with a DEFRA spokesman last night to discuss changes to TB testing in cattle across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.

Many farms in the area have been on four-yearly testing because they were considered to be at low risk. But the government has brought in new rules which will mean annual testing across the region.

In addition, pre-movement testing has been introduced, which means that any bovine animal being sold at market, or to another farmer, will have to be tested within 60 days prior to moving.

An angry farmer who wished to remain anonymous said: “I’m irate. I have a closed herd and have had for donkey’s years; and I have no nose to nose contact with any other farmer’s livestock on the perimeters of my farm.

“I’m in a four-year testing parish and yet I’m being lumped in with every other farmer in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire and will now have to undergo the cost and upheaval of annual testing and pre-movement testing. It’s ridiculous.”

Last night’s meeting at the Oxford Belfry Hotel was organised by Evan David, a vet from Norcal Veterinary Services in Thame.

He said: “Andy Paterson from DEFRA arranged to come and speak to vets regarding these new changes, so I decided to open it up and invite all the farmers in the area with the help of Thame Market.

“We used to be on four-yearly testing around here, but now it will be every year because west of the A34 and north of Oxford they are in one to two-year testing areas, and south of Reading there are hotspots of TB moving in from the west, so the government has now put the whole area into one-year testing.”

More than 200 farmers were expected at the meeting.

Mr David said: “This is probably being done to satisfy Europe, but we’re not stopping TB, it’s coming further and further across from the west.

“Farmers are irate and rightly so. It’s going to increase their workload and my workload, and cause hassle and stress to the animals.”