Livestock markets launch voluntary bTB information programme

22nd October 2013

A Government initiative, which aims to encourage vendors at livestock markets to voluntarily give information about the TB testing status of their cattle, is being launched next month at Chelford Market.

The national "risk-based trading scheme", which was announced in May, has been set up to give buyers more information about the potential risk of bringing bTB cattle into their herds.

Vendors to the sale of native beef breeds at Chelford Market in Cheshire on Saturday the 9th of November will be invited to fill in a form giving information such as when their animals were last tested for TB and whether they are from four-year or one-year testing farms.

Gwyn Williams, Chelford-based partner at Frank Marshall LLP, said the vendors will be asked to return the TB forms with their catalogue information. This information will then be entered in the catalogue and displayed on screens at the market.

"Bovine TB is spreading and is being seen in parts of the country where it has not previously been in evidence. The livestock markets welcome any initiative that increases the amount of information out there, and we are willing to work with the industry in any way necessary," he said.

"The sale on the 9th of November is catalogued and includes the Society Show and Sale of Beef Shorthorns and the Highland Cattle Society Winter Show and Sales, so we are hoping the system will be fairly straightforward to implement.

"At this stage all the information has to be entered manually because there is no central database on the TB status of cattle in the UK. We will be looking closely at the uptake of information and how the system could be improved to help both buyers and vendors," he said.

The scheme is also intended to give farmers in one-year testing areas with no history of the disease the opportunity to demonstrate their herd’s status and therefore get a better price. It comes from a recommendation in a report by the Risk-Based Trading Group (RBTG), a group of industry and Government representatives asked by Defra to come up with voluntary measures to reduce the risk of farmers buying in infected livestock.

Chris Dodds, Executive Secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, said the voluntary scheme was a step towards improving the information available to farmers about bTB status of the animals they buy in.

"The livestock markets have been saying for a long time that we need to improve the levels of information available in terms of disease status, both for the good of the individual farmer and the national herd. These are early days but we would need to look towards establishing a national database that can be easily accessed and provide a comprehensive risk assessment of the bTB status of all animals," he said.