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Bovine Tuberculosis - TB testing and surveillance

Important Changes to Compensation Arrangements for all statutory TB Testing from 12 December 2018 are Advised Below - It is important that all cattle keepers familiarise themselves with these new rules.

Farmers are required by law to have their cattle tested for bovine TB in a number of situations and APHA advise cattle keepers of their due testing dates for each relevant test. From the 12 December 2018, new provisions are being introduced to reduce compensation payments where cattle keepers have allowed their statutory testing to go overdue by more than 60 days, and TB reactors are subsequently identified. This reduction will be applied on a sliding scale, which means that the longer the delay in completing the test the greater the reduction in compensation.

Routine herd testing

Routine herd testing is carried out to identify cattle infected with TB and to prevent disease spread to other cattle, other susceptible animals and to protect public health. For Scotland, demonstrating continued freedom from TB is also important to enable trading of cattle with other EU Member States. Council Directive 64/432/EEC on animal health problems affecting intra-Community trade in bovine animals ensures that cattle can only be traded with another Member State if the animals come from a herd officially free of tuberculosis.

Farmers are required by law to have their cattle tested for bovine TB and APHA advise cattle keepers of their due testing dates. A zero tolerance policy means that if tests become overdue restrictions will be placed on herds which fail to test by the specified testing date.

From the 12 December 2018, new provisions are being introduced to also reduce compensation payments where cattle keepers have allowed their routine herd testing to go overdue by more than 60 days, and TB reactors are subsequently identified. This reduction will be applied on a sliding scale, which means that the longer the testing delay the greater the reduction in compensation.

  • Where the interval between the date the test should have been completed and the actual date it was completed is more than 60 days but not more than 90 days - the amount of compensation paid will be 50% of the animals market value as determined by Article 19 of the Tuberculosis (Scotland) Order 2007.
  • Where the interval between the date the test should have been completed and the actual date it was completed is more than 90 days - the amount of compensation paid will only be 5% of the animals market value as determined by Article 19 of the Tuberculosis (Scotland) Order 2007.

There is no routine herd testing regime for non-bovine animals. Legislative powers for dealing with TB in specified non-bovine animals (The Tuberculosis in Specified Animals (Scotland) Order 2015) were introduced on the 9 October 2015, but these powers will only be used where disease is suspected or reactor animals identified e.g. at Post Mortem. 

Routine testing intervals

Scotland as a whole has a default testing interval of 48 months. However, in certain circumstances a herd may require more frequent testing and the keepers of these herds are notified on an individual basis. Alternatively, some Scottish herds which have been identified as "low risk" will be exempt from the four yearly routine herd testing and will also be notified seperately.

Exempt Herds

1 January 2012 saw the introduction of a risk based bovine TB testing policy, whereby some Scottish herds were  identified as “low risk” and as such were exempt from four yearly routine herd testing. The first four yearly testing cycle (1 January 2012 - 31 December 2015) was sucessfuly completed and further analysis showed that there was scope to safely increase the number of exempt herds further by changing the maximum herd size criterion from fewer that 20 cattle to fewer than 50 and this change was introduced on the 1 January 2017.

APHA are responsible for notifying cattle keepers in Scotland whether or not their herd is exempt from TB testing and all herds are reassessed annually. This ensures existing exempt herds continue to meet the low risk criteria and also allows all other herd owners to make the neccessary adjustments to their herd management practices in order to be considered low risk and achieve exempt status in the future.   All queries relating to this change should be directed to the local APHA office.

Low Risk Criteria

 In order to be defined as 'low risk' a herd must comply with one of the following criteria:

  • herds with fewer than 50 cattle (total stock on farm at 1 January of the year the test is due)which have had fewer than 2 consignments of cattle moved on from high incidence TB areas (including Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) in the previous 4 years
  • herds that slaughter* more than 25% of their stock annually and have had fewer than 2 consignments of cattle moved on from high incidence TB areas (including Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) in the previous 4 years
  • herds that slaughter* more than 40% of their stock annually

* Slaughtered animals refers to animals that have been on the holding for at least 60 days that move either direct from farm to slaughterhouse, or direct from farm to market and then direct to slaughterhouse. Animals moving onto another holding temporarily between market and slaughterhouse are not included. The slaughter rate is calculated on the total number of cattle slaughtered in a slaughterhouse in the previous calendar year divided by the herd size (total stock on farm on 1 January).

In addition, as there are no dedicated slaughter markets in Scotland, for cattle going to slaughter via market, usual standstill rules will apply.

More information on testing is available on the APHA website.

Link to University of Glasgow report on Risk-Based Surveillance for Tuberculosis in Cattle (BTB).

Slaughterhouse surveillance

All carcases are inspected by the Food Standards Scotland at the slaughterhouse for evidence of TB lesions. Where lesions are found and a carcase is suspected of being affected with TB, APHA will be notifed and a restriction notice (TB02) served on the herd of origin. The OTF status of the herd will be suspended (OTFS), pending further investigations.

A report of bovine TB slaughterhouse surveillance (2009-2016) has been produced to analyse the key trends in the detection of the disease by post-mortem meat inspection carried out during commercial slaughter of cattle and the contribution that this makes to the overall bovine TB surveillance effort in GB.