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Diseases - Brucellosis - Surveillance and Control

Brucella Abortus

Although Great Britain has been officially Brucellosis free since 1985, as are several other European countries (Republic of Ireland, Germany and Switzerland) it is still present in other European Union countries including Northern Ireland.  Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are also free of the disease.

The threat of reoccurrence of the disease remains through importation of cattle and it is important therefore to maintain an effective level of surveillance in order to protect Scotland’s “Brucellosis Free” status.  This is achieved by carrying out abortion investigations and quarterly testing of bulk milk samples.

The law requires cattle keepers to report every abortion or premature calving to a veterinary inspector as required by Article 9 of the Brucellosis (Scotland) Order 2009 and it places an obligation on primary purchasers of milk to have it tested.

Imported Cattle

Post import checks are undertaken on all imported cattle considered to be “High Risk”.  This includes consignments from non OBF countries or those that are OBF but have suffered a recent outbreak of bovine Brucellosis as well as any imports which are found to be non compliant. The Cattle Tracing System is used to track imported animals and identify those which require testing.

Post Calving Checks

Post calving tests are carried out on all breeding cattle imported from non OBF countries when the cow or heifer calves for the first time in Scotland. This information should be provided by the owner of the cattle to the local Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) office on the first working day after calving, so that a post calving blood test of the dam can be arranged.

Annual Herd Testing

All Scottish herds which regularly import animals directly from non OBF countries or those that are in the process of validating their OBF status are required to be tested annually.

Milk sampling

All milk from dairy herds in Scotland that is destined for sale and/or for use in milk products must now undergo testing for brucellosis at intervals of 3 months.  Sampling must include all dairy cows in the herd whose milk is being sold and testing must be done by an approved laboratory.

Abortion or premature calving investigation

The law requires every abortion or premature calving to be reported to a veterinary inspector within 24 hours and for isolation of the animal concerned.

An abortion or premature calving is defined as "an abortion or calving that takes place less than 271 days after service or insemination, or 265 days after implantation or transfer of an embryo, whether the calf is born dead or alive." Any such event reported is subject to an investigation which may include brucellosis testing.

Brucella Melitensis

It is a statutory requirement to undertake blood sampling for the purposes of testing for Brucella Melitensis.  Great Britain is required under Council Directive 91/68 EEC to carry out testing each year to demonstrate with 95% confidence that fewer than 0.2% of holdings are infected, or to test each year at least 5% of sheep and goats in the country over the age of six months.

It would be disproportionate to carry out testing on all sheep and goat herds every year so in order to comply with our obligations,  an annual on farm survey is carried out by APHA to demonstrate continued freedom from the disease.  The survey involves collection of blood samples for testing from a random selection of sheep and goat herds.