Keeping tabs on bTB!

The Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) is an executive agency, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Welsh and Scottish governments.  Amongst its responsibilities is identification and control of endemic and exotic diseases and pests in animals, plants and bees, and surveillance of new and emerging pests and diseases, and scientific research to combat and control them.

Throughout the year, APHA publishes blogs which highlight the breadth of scientific work it is involved in, sharing the latest developments.  In one of its latest scientific blogs, APHA provides an update on the tools being developed for the fight against bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

More than 40,000 cattle are slaughtered each year due to bTB and while the disease is a threat to all cattle farmers, for rare breeds the impact of a positive test could be critical – and currently some of our rarest breeds, like the Gloucester, are concentrated in areas like the south west of England that are high risk for bTB.

One of the tools the blog describes is a new approach to cattle testing.  The standard test, while well-established and widely used, can take up to 22 weeks to get a result, meaning that farmers can have a long wait to find out if their cattle have bTB.

In an effort to find a quicker solution, AHA has developed a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and started using it to test certain bTB cases in March 2022.   The PCR takes just a few days and allows results to be reported and any follow up control measures to be applied more quickly. So far, there has been positive feedback from industry, and APHA aims to introduce this test for all cases in 2023.

As well as working on ways to deal with the disease, APHA offers support and advice for its prevention.  In 2015 it introduced Information bTB (ibTB), a free-to-access, online interactive mapping tool (developed by APHA and Environmental Research Group Oxford) to help cattle farmers and their vets understand the level of bTB in their area and manage the risks when purchasing cattle. It is based on current and past bTB data and allows users to see the current and historic record of bTB infection in specific geographical locations in England and Wales.

APHA publishes its science blogs throughout the year and the bTB blog can be found at, where you can also subscribe to receive email alerts as soon as new blogs are published.  The interactive bTB map can be found at


Measures from 1 February to help eradicate bovine TB (Wales)

The introduction of measures from 1 February, including Pre-Movement Testing, will be vital in helping to tackle bovine TB in Wales, Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths has said.

The steps being taken follow responses to the consultation on a refreshed approach to TB Eradication in Wales and the subsequent delivery plan which was published in March 2023.

From 1 February 2024, Pre-Movement Testing of cattle or other bovine animals located in the Low TB Area (LTBA) of Wales will be re-introduced. This change is being made in response to an increase in the local spread of TB in the LTBA, some of which is due to legal localised movements of untested cattle.

Clear pre-movement test results will be valid for 60 days from the date of the injection of the skin test.

In addition, all cattle and other bovine animals which move into herds in the Intermediate TB Areas (ITBAs) of Wales from the High TB Area of Wales, the High Risk Area of England and from Northern Ireland will need a post-movement test (PoMT).

The test must be undertaken no sooner than 60 days and no later than 120 days after their arrival on the holding.

Cattle keepers in LTBA and ITBAs in Wales have been written to informing them of these changes.

Information will also be published on the ibTB webpages on how long a herd has been officially TB free later in February. This information will be important in helping keepers assess TB risk when buying cattle.

Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said:

"Our farmers are vital to Wales, and we fully understand the impact bovine TB has on their health, well-being and livelihoods.

"We are seeing progress in tackling the disease overall across Wales, with new herd incidents decreasing. It is important to recognise this, and the crucial steps farmers and vets are taking to keep their bovine animals free of TB.

"However, it is also clear that the TB situation varies regionally across the country. The reintroduction of pre-movement testing was also welcomed in consultation responses. As such, we are introducing these steps, from 1 February, and taking a targeted approach in certain areas.

"The information which will be available on the ibTB webpages will also be helpful for farmers when purchasing cattle

"Farmers and vets working closely, including with Government, is crucial to both protect herds and keep TB out, as well as tackling the disease if it does occur, so we can reach our shared goal of a TB-free Wales by 2041."

Chief Veterinary Officer, Richard Irvine said:

"The consultation on our approach to TB Eradication in Wales has informed our delivery plan and the introduction of these measures, and I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to this.

"TB can have a huge impact on farms, families and livelihoods. Therefore, it is important farmers continue to work closely with their veterinarians to maintain strong biosecurity and do all they can to protect their herds.

"The steps coming into place on 1 February will be important in maintaining progress to eradicate bovine TB from Wales."

Further information can be found at and ibTB - Mapping bovine TB (bTB) in England and Wales.