Enhanced bovine TB surveillance and controls in the High Risk and Edge Areas of England

Closed 8 Nov 2016

Opened 30 Aug 2016


Bovine TB is the most pressing and costly animal health problem in the UK.  The disease threatens our cattle industry and presents a risk to other livestock and also to wildlife species (mainly badgers), pets and humans.  The Government remains determined to eradicate bovine TB.

This is the latest in a series of consultation exercises aimed at introducing sensible and proportionate TB control measures in cattle that will, when combined with measures to address the TB risk posed by badgers, increase the probability that the goal of national official TB freedom will be achieved by the target date of 2038.  The proposals set out in this document fall into two broad categories:

  • Enhancing the TB control framework through more sensitive testing of cattle from TB breakdown herds.
  • Making faster progress on the road to achieving official TB freedom for counties in the Edge Area of England. 

The proposed measures, explained more fully in the main sections of this document can be summarised as follows:

More sensitive testing of cattle from TB breakdown herds

  • Increase the sensitivity of breakdown testing by making wider use of interferon-gamma parallel testing in TB breakdown cattle herds in the High Risk Area of England (HRA).
  • Increase the sensitivity of skin testing of cattle traced from infected herds by using the ‘severe’ interpretation.
  • Mitigate the risk posed by inconclusive skin test reactors that resolve upon retesting.
  • Introduce more effective controls on the movement of cattle between two TB breakdown herds.
  • Harmonise the scheduling of Short Interval Tests in TB breakdown herds.

Making faster progress towards official TB freedom for counties in the Edge Area of England

  • Re-define the Edge Area boundaries by incorporating as whole counties those that currently straddle the High Risk and Edge Areas of England.   
  • Increase the sensitivity of surveillance testing by extending six-monthly testing or radial testing to all parts of the Edge Area.

We are also using this opportunity to seek views on two further potential measures to address two control weaknesses and on possible enhancements to ibTB (an interactive map showing TB breakdown locations).  The measures are:

  • To introduce powers to enforce herd biosecurity measures to reduce TB reinfection risks.
  • To restrict approval of slaughter sales (‘red markets’) of TB-restricted cattle to the HRA and Edge Area.

Why We Are Consulting

This consultation has been published alongside a call for views paper on a possible alternative TB herd testing regime for the HRA. For herd owners facing the greatest TB risks, we believe that the options outlined in the call for views paper  (built around a default position of six-monthly routine surveillance testing) would be more effective in detecting infection and at the same time be a simpler testing regime for all to understand and comply with. The call for views can be found at https://consult.defra.gov.uk/bovine-tb/bovine-tb-a-call-for-views.  

We would urge consultees to read and respond to both the consultation and the call for views.  The two documents are not contradictory: the proposals set out in this consultation are ones the Government is minded to introduce over the coming 12 months; whereas the call for views is an invitation to help us determine whether stakeholders agree there may be merit in developing and analysing options for a simpler and more effective TB testing regime in the HRA over the longer term.

The Government’s Strategy for achieving Officially Bovine Tuberculosis Free (OTF) status for England was published in April 2014, it can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-strategy-for-achieving-officially-bovine-tuberculosis-free-status-for-england.

In proposing changes to TB controls in cattle herds our aim is to strike a balance between robust disease control - aimed ultimately at achieving OTF status for England - and supporting a sustainable livestock industry.  The proposals and initiatives set out in this document were trailed in the 2014 Strategy document and build on measures we consulted on last year and introduced in April 2016, including compulsory post-movement TB testing of cattle entering the Low Risk Area of England and a more robust testing regime for TB breakdown herds in the HRA.

What Happens Next

Final decisions will be made by Ministers.


  • Land Agents


  • Natural environment