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Biosecurity and husbandry advice

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Good biosecurity and husbandry practices are important in reducing the risk of infection from bovine TB.

How to improve biosecurity

Moving cattle on to a farm increases the risk of introducing bovine TB and other diseases. Even in closed herds cattle can make contact with other cattle on neighbouring land, adding to the threat. There are a series of common sense, precautionary measures that cattle farmers can take to improve biosecurity on their holding.

Keep your cattle away from neighbouring cattle

  • fences between farms must be suitably stock-proof
  • a double boundary fence (3m or more apart) should be considered to prevent nose-to-nose contact on shared boundaries
  • where contact could occur between cattle on neighbouring farms (gates, troughs and other gaps) a temporary electric fence can just as easily form a suitable barrier to prevent opportunities for contact and possible disease spread
  • wherever possible, prevent access to shared watercourses such as ponds or streams and provide piped water to troughs instead.

Know where bought-in animals have come from

  • seek advice about animal health from your vet before purchasing cattle
  • always know the origins of bought-in cattle. Although the herd may be TB free, it may be located in a high risk area
  • ask for appropriate evidence of the testing history of the source herd as well as dates of previous TB tests for all bought-in cattle. The TB passport sticker is an easy way to identify when cattle last had a clear test (only if purchased in Wales)
  • incoming cattle should have been pre-movement tested if coming from a high risk area
  • be aware of the disease risk from hired or shared cattle, including hired bulls. Where possible, breed your own replacements and/or use Artificial Insemination (AI)
  • be aware of the potential risk of introducing infection when cattle are returning from common grazing or unsold from markets
  • isolate incoming cattle in appropriate isolation facilities. When using a paddock/field for this purpose, make sure that no contact can be made with other cattle in your herd or with neighbouring cattle
  • use the Bovine TB herd health accreditation scheme to see the TB health status of herds.

General good practice

  • cattle housing should be well ventilated - do not overstock cattle when housed
  • provide cattle with a balanced and nutritional diet
  • do not feed unpasteurised, high cell count milk to calves
  • keep cattle away from freshly spread cattle muck/slurry and dispose of cattle bedding so that they cannot gain access to it
  • work with your vet to formulate a health plan for your herd
  • have pressure washers, brushes, hoses and disinfectant available and make visitors use them
  • thoroughly clean and disinfect farm machinery, particularly if sharing equipment with a neighbouring farm, and insist contractors do the same.

Manure management

  • studies have shown that Mycobacterium bovis can survive for up to 6 months in stored slurry
  • it is recommended that cattle do not graze pasture for 2 months after slurry / manure / dirty water has been applied on it.

More advice for cattle keepers on what they can do to help reduce the risk of TB infection in their herds is available from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (external link).

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