Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) is a devastating chronic disease of cattle and a major challenge facing large parts of the UK cattle farming industry today. Although the disease is controlled in most developed countries, the complete eradication worldwide is made difficult by wildlife reservoirs that continue to exist.
TB is a contagious disease caused by the mycobacterium bovis. The disease is characterised by the development of "tuberculosis" lesions in any organ of the body. It mainly affects cattle but can be passed between most mammals. It is also a Zoonotic which means it can be passed from infected animals to people, causing an illness similar to human TB. However, the risk of people contracting TB from cattle in GB is considered to be very low. Advice is issued by APHA and Health Protection Scotland on reducing the risk of M.bovis infection in humans.
Statistics on bovine TB incidence in Great Britain can be found at; http://www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/foodfarm/landuselivestock/cattletb/national/
Scotland achieved Officially Tuberculosis Free Status (OTF) in September 2009. OTF is recognition of the relatively low and stable incidence of TB found in Scottish herds. This status also provided Scottish Government with the flexibility to design a dedicated and original TB surveillance programme for the Scottish national herd and as a result, the 1st January 2012 saw the introduction of a new risk based TB testing policy in Scotland whereby "low risk" herds became exempt from four yearly routine herd testing.
The first four year testing cycle was completed on 31 December 2015 and a subsequent review of the scheme criteria has shown that there is scope to safely increase the number of herds eligible for exemption without adversely affecting the ability to detect infected herds. The "low risk" selection criteria will therefore change with effect from 1 January 2017.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)reassess all herds annualy and are responsibile for notifying cattle keepers in Scotland whether or not their herd is exempt from routine TB testing. The letters to inform Scottish cattle keepers of their testing requirements for 2017 were issued by APHA on the 22 August 2016.
Further information on the "low risk criteria" can be found on the TB Testing and Surveillance page