Q&A: Reducing TB risks from the sale of cattle from 4-yearly testing herds in England

A new voluntary TB test was introduced in 2016 for cattle keepers in England with herds on four yearly surveillance testing who are planning to sell all or part of their herd.

> Click here for an explanatory flow chart on Pre-Sale TB Check Tests.

> Click here for Defra Bovine TB information note 03/16: pre-sale TB check tests

Q1.      What is the policy being introduced, and when?

A1.      The new voluntary Government-funded Pre-Sale TB Check Test was introduced on 6 April 2016 for cattle keepers in England with herds on four yearly surveillance testing, who are planning to sell all or part of their herd and where they meet other eligibility criteria.

The Scottish Government have advised they are also considering the merit of a voluntary pre-sale check test for herds in Scotland.


Q2.      Why is this policy being introduced?

A2.      This new TB whole herd pre-sale test supports the TB strategy in the Low Risk Area in England by addressing the specific TB risk and possible impact on receiving farms posed by sales of cattle from herds that have not been recently tested. The eligibility framework has been built to reduce this specific risk.

This initiative fits within wider activities (including the TB Hub web resource) around risk-based trading and biosecurity, which Defra has also developed in partnership with industry and other stakeholders.


Q3.      Who is eligible for the test?

A3.      To be eligible for this Government-funded test, the seller and their holding/herd must meet the following criteria:

  • the premises must not be under TB restrictions
  • the herd must be on a four yearly TB testing regime
  • the proposed sale must consist of 20 or more animals
  • the herd must not have been tested in the last 12 months
  • the sale must include any of the following types of animal:
  • Breeding bulls
  • In-calf females or cows for breeding
  • Dairy heifers / cows >15 months


Q4.      I am a cattle keeper in the LRA, will APHA notify me about the new test?

A4.      No. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you should contact APHA to request a test on 03000 200 301 (Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 5pm). A phone assessment will be completed and the test will be then arranged through the Official Veterinarian (OV) nominated by the TB test delivery partner (VDP). This also applies to applicants who have chosen to opt out of VDP arranged testing for other TB tests.


Q5.      Why is it a pilot scheme?

A5.      Defra launched this initiative as a 24-month pilot scheme in order to gauge levels of uptake and impacts of this voluntary initiative. A pilot scheme also allows Defra to adapt the scheme in response to how it’s used.  Defra will hold review points every 6 months and a break point after 12 months to allow maximum flexibility.


Q6.      What happens if my herd tests positive?

A6.      If TB reactors or inconclusive reactors are identified in your herd, restrictions will be applied and the planned sale may have to be postponed.


Q7.      What happens if my herd tests negative?

A7.      If the results of the TB check test are negative, the cattle sale will be able to proceed normally and any animals that may remain on the seller’s holding will be marked-forward for a routine herd test (RHT) in 48 months (the default surveillance testing interval for most herds in the LRA).


Q8.      When can the test be completed?

A8.      You will be have three months to complete the test in addition to the one month notice required to arrange the test with the OV nominated by VDP.


Q9.      What happens to my routine herd test if I’ve had this whole herd test?

A9.      On receipt of a clear check test, APHA will delay the next RHT scheduled on your herd to 48 months from when this new herd test was completed. You will be able to call APHA to ask that the monthly testing window for the new RHT be brought forward to realign it with your business needs if required.

Q10.    If the herd testing interval of my herd is changed to annual or more frequent or TB restrictions are placed on my herd, can the test still go ahead?

A10.    No, you will become ineligible for this type of test and it will be cancelled.


Q11.    Do I need to test only the animals I plan to sell or does the whole herd need to be tested?

A11.    The whole herd will need to be tested, excluding calves under 42 days old.


Q12.    My cattle herd is located in the four yearly testing area, but it is on annual or more frequent routine TB surveillance testing and/or temporarily subject to radial testing.  Can I benefit from this initiative?

A12.    No, you will need to undertake statutory pre-movement testing (unless you are exempt for other reasons) and pay for it.


Q13.    As long as the above criteria is met, will this test will be available to anyone during the 24 month pilot?

A13.    An objective of this scheme will be to assess the voluntary participation. As the test is funded by Government it may be necessary to cap the number of tests depending on its uptake. Defra will monitor participation levels as part of the review points which are set at 6 monthly intervals.


Note: This note is intended to act as a guide to raise awareness of the introduction of the  voluntary pre-sale TB check test for eligible cattle in England.  It does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a substitute for obtaining legal advice.