Detailed guide: Bovine TB: get your cattle tested in England

Animal Plant Health Agency

November 8
14:33 2019

Routine TB tests

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will write to you to explain:

  • the type of test you need to arrange
  • the earliest date that the test can be started and the latest date that the test must be completed
  • the date that the test will become overdue
  • the cattle that must be tested
  • how to prepare for the test
  • the organisation appointed to do the test

In most cases APHA will ask a veterinary delivery partner (VDP) to appoint a vet to carry out your test. APHA may appoint an APHA vet or an APHA animal health officer (lay tester) but this is less common.

If the VDP have been asked to carry out your test but you would prefer someone else to do it, you can ask another suitably qualified person (SQP) to carry out the test. You may have to pay for the test.

You must arrange the test with the appointed vet or SQP before the deadline date in the letter.

Contact APHA or talk to your vet if you have any questions about the test. If you keep cattle they must be routinely tested for bovine TB. You dont have to pay for routine TB tests.

APHA will tell you when a routine test is required and when it must be completed.

In some cases, not all the cattle in your herd will need to be tested. APHA will tell you which animals must be tested for each test.

How often you must have routine tests

Your cattle must be tested at least:

  • once a year if your herd is in a part of England that is classed as high risk
  • once a year or once every six months if your herd is in an area of England that is classed as the edge area
  • once every 4 years if your herd is in a part of England that is classed as low risk

Find out how often TB tests must be carried out in your area.

Higher risk farms and industries

Your cattle must be tested at least once a year if you:

  • run a city or open farm
  • run an artificial insemination centre
  • produce or sell raw milk and raw milk products
  • rear heifers
  • keep a dealer herd
  • regularly bring any cattle from Ireland on to your premises
  • keep a hire bull herd or business

If youre not sure how often you must have your animals tested, contact APHA.

What happens if a test becomes overdue

A TB test becomes overdue if the test has not been completed for all eligible animals by the deadline.

If the test goes overdue:

  • your herd will be placed under TB restrictions and your OTF status will be lost
  • you wont be able to move any animals on or off your premises without a licence issued by APHA - youll need to contact APHA to apply for any licence
  • APHA will write to you to explain what you need to do to make sure that testing is carried out
  • the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will, in most cases, impose a penalty which will reduce your CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) Scheme payments - the penalty will vary according to the length of time that the test is overdue
  • when the test is done you may get less compensation for any animals that test positive for TB and have to be slaughtered
  • the local authority may investigate and you may be prosecuted

Prepare for the test

Before the test, you must make sure that:

  • you discuss with your vet the use of any necessary routine drugs in the 60 days before the test so that where possible drugs are used which have a short meat withdrawal time (the time after treatment before the meat can be used for human consumption)
  • your cattle are correctly identified by their ear tags
  • all cattle movement records are accurate, including passports
  • cattle movement and veterinary medicine records are ready for the inspector
  • evidence of any cattle that had a TB skin test in the 60 days before the test date is ready to show to inspectors no cattle should be tested again within 60 days of the start of a previous test
  • you have suitable testing and handling facilities
  • you have enough staff to move cattle into handling facilities quickly and safely

An inspector may cancel the test on the day if they decide you havent prepared for it or its not safe to go ahead. Youre still responsible for making sure your cattle are safely tested on time.

You should avoid giving routine veterinary medicines like wormers or vaccines once the test has started and until the test has been completed for each individual animal.

Make sure your facilities are suitable

Your testing and handling facilities must:

  • allow safe movement of cattle
  • include a suitable handling system (such as a crush and penning system linked by a secure race)
  • make it easy for inspectors to restrain and examine cattle, clip their hair, measure the skin with callipers, and give them injections
  • be in good working order
  • be suitable for the size and breed of cattle that have to be tested
  • be well-lit so inspectors can read ear tags and carry out the test

TB breakdown

A TB breakdown is when your TB free status is lost after one or more of your animals fails a TB test. These animals are called reactors.

If there is a TB breakdown in your herd, APHA will tell you that extra testing is necessary. You wont have to pay for this testing, but its your responsibility to arrange for these tests to be carried out.

APHA will tell your local authority if you fail to complete any test by the deadline date. The local authority is responsible for taking enforcement action required by APHA inspectors in relation to your herd.

Officially TB free status

APHA considers your herd to have officially TB free (OTF) status if:

  • youre up to date with your routine TB testing
  • they have no reason to suspect TB infection is present in your cattle

When officially TB free status is lost

Your herds TB free status will be lost if:

  • at least one animal has failed the TB skin test (so is a reactor animal)
  • at least one animal has 2 consecutive inconclusive skin test results
  • the slaughterhouse, knackers yard or hunt kennel that you sent cattle to reports carcass lesions typical of TB
  • your routine TB test is overdue
  • one of your live animals shows possible signs of TB (clinical case), needs to be slaughtered before testing and lesions typical of TB are found in the carcass

If at least one animal has had an inconclusive skin test result, its an inconclusive reactor, or IR, and your herds TB free status is lost. Depending on the herds TB history in the previous 3 years:

  • OTF status may be reinstated
  • movement restrictions may be limited to the IR only while waiting for the IR to be retested

What happens when officially TB free status is lost

When your herds officially TB free status is lost APHA will:

  1. Apply movement restrictions - this means you must not move cattle on or off your premises unless APHA gives you a licence to do so. To apply for a licence, complete the TB204 form and send to APHA
  2. Arrange the slaughter and post-mortem examination (

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