TB licensing in England and Wales during the COVID-19 outbreak

There is a programme of statutory TB skin testing of cattle in Great Britain. Keepers are sent a testing notification letter informing them of the requirement to TB test, including the earliest date the test can start and the date by which the test must be completed. This is known as the testing window and varies according to the test type.

If all animals eligible for the required TB test have not been tested by the due date, the herd will temporarily lose its officially TB free (OTF) status as the test is overdue. Movement restrictions are applied automatically and are not removed until all eligible cattle have been tested. Any movements of cattle on and off the affected holding that may be necessary in the meantime, will be very limited, and must be licensed by the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA). Herds that have lost their OTF status due to either a TB breakdown or the finding of lesions typical of TB at routine (commercial) slaughter also undergo TB testing and each test has a specific testing window.

Normally, where TB testing has become overdue, there are stringent restrictions on cattle movements both on and off the affected farm. Currently, with the challenges faced by farmers and vets during the COVID-19 outbreak, it is likely that some TB tests will not be completed by the due date. This Q&A explains some temporary relaxations to the existing TB licensing rules in England and Wales that have been introduced to help mitigate some of the adverse impacts. If your cattle herd is in Scotland, please contact APHA on 03000 600 704 or email [email protected] for advice if your TB test is overdue.

This Q&A applies to:

Cattle herds in England and Wales that:

  • were officially TB free (OTF), but have gone under restrictions as a TB test is overdue or was only partially completed within the herd’s testing window
  • have lost their OTF status due to a TB breakdown or due to suspected lesions of TB detected during routine meat inspection in the abattoir, and the resulting TB test is overdue or was only partially completed within the testing window

The following scenarios do not apply to herds where movement restrictions have been served due to British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) discrepancies i.e. where the farmer’s record of cattle tested does not match the record that BCMS has of cattle on the farm. This guidance applies to both England and Wales, unless specifically stated otherwise. 

To apply to APHA for a licence in England and Wales, use the following contact details:

England
03000 200 301
[email protected]
A licence application form is available on GOV.UK to complete and email to APHA

Wales
0300 303 8268
[email protected]

Please remember that you need to apply to APHA at least five working days before you need a licence.

Q&A

You should contact APHA to request a general licence to move TB-restricted cattle directly to an abattoir.  This licence will normally remain in force for the duration of the TB restrictions and has guidance on transport and cleaning and disinfection (C&D) arrangements. Inconclusive reactors (IRs) and reactors cannot travel to slaughter using this general licence and you should apply to APHA for a specific licence (only if you intend to slaughter such animals privately). You should check that the abattoir will accept cattle from herds under TB restrictions before consigning the animals there.

As long as the slaughter gathering (either a ‘red market’ or a collection centre) is able to accept the cattle and is approved to take TB-restricted cattle, you can apply to APHA for a licence to send your cattle there, even if the cattle have not been TB tested in the last 90 days.

Yes, you can apply to APHA for a licence to replace a lost suckled calf or to buy in a small number of calves to consume excess milk as long as the calves come from an officially TB free (OTF) herd and are under 42 days old when they move on. For herds that are in a TB breakdown situation or where OTF status has been suspended due to suspected lesions of TB being detected at routine slaughter, requests for a licence to buy in calves will be considered on a case-by-case basis and subject to the satisfactory outcome of a risk assessment.

Where artificial insemination is not practical, you can apply to APHA for a licence to buy in a bull(s) as long as they come from an officially TB free (OTF) herd and have been TB tested with negative results in the 60 days before the movement, unless the movement is exempt from this requirement (for instance, a bull purchased from a low TB risk area). For herds that are in a TB breakdown situation or where OTF status has been suspended due to suspected TB lesions being detected at routine slaughter, requests for a licence to buy in a bull will be considered on a case-by-case basis and subject to the satisfactory outcome of a risk assessment.

For herds that were previously officially TB free (OTF) and have lost this status due to an overdue test, you can apply to APHA for a licence to buy-in replacement females (up to 75 head) up until three months after the last date of your original testing window.  The cattle must originate from OTF herds and meet the requirements for pre-movement testing. For herds that are in a TB breakdown situation or where OTF status has been suspended due to suspected TB lesions being detected at routine slaughter, requests for a licence to buy in replacement females will be considered on a case-by-case basis and subject to the satisfactory outcome of a risk assessment.

Any movement of cattle onto your premises will be only allowed under licence, subject to a veterinary risk assessment and only from an officially TB free (OTF) premises. The cattle will need to have completed a pre-movement test with negative result, or originate from the Low TB Area of Wales, the Low Risk Area of England, or Scotland. You will not be issued a licence which allows you to expand your herd size, and for large numbers of cattle you may be required to isolate them from existing stock for the movement to be allowed.

For herds that were previously officially TB free (OTF) and have lost this status due to an overdue test, you can apply to APHA for a licence to buy-in fattening stock up until three months after the last date of your original testing window.  The cattle must originate from OTF herds and meet the requirements for pre-movement testing. The number that can be moved on during this period is limited to 75 head. For herds that are in a TB breakdown situation or where OTF status has been suspended due to suspected TB lesions being detected at routine slaughter, requests for a licence to buy in fattening stock will be considered on a case-by-case basis and subject to the satisfactory outcome of a risk assessment.

Cattle that have had a TB skin test with negative results in the last 90 days can be moved directly to an Approved Finishing Unit (AFU) or, subject to specific conditions, to an Approved Finishing Unit Enhanced with grazing (AFUE) in England, but this move has to be licensed by APHA.

 

In England only, you can apply to APHA for a licence to move cattle that have not been tested directly to an AFU in England, and this will be considered up until three months after the last date of your original testing window. The number of cattle permitted to move is limited to 75 head in total from any one herd. You can also apply to APHA for a licence to move cattle to an approved TB dedicated gathering (orange market or collection centre). Calves under 42 days old can move without being TB tested beforehand. Cattle 42 days old and over must have been TB tested with negative results in the previous 90 days even if the test of all the eligible cattle in the herd is not possible and remains overdue.

 

In Wales, you can apply to move cattle that have not been TB tested in the last 90 days directly to an AFU, and APHA can exceptionally allow the movement providing the request appears to be for genuine herd management reasons to prevent a welfare issue, such as shortage of animal feed or housing, and the keeper of the AFU declares in writing that they are content for the move to take place.

 

In England and Wales, for herds that are in a TB breakdown situation or where OTF status has been suspended due to suspected TB lesions being detected at routine slaughter, requests for a licence to move cattle to an AFU will be considered on a case-by-case basis and subject to the satisfactory outcome of a risk assessment. 

No. Licensed Finishing Units (LFUs) are located in the Low Risk Area of England and Low TB Area of Wales, which by definition have a very low background level of bovine TB.  To protect this, LFUs can only take in cattle from herds with OTF status that have been pre-movement tested (where required).

Licences may be issued by APHA for calves under 42 days old to move to:

  • TB Isolation Units (TBIU) in England
  • TBIU in Wales, but only if your herd is currently experiencing a TB breakdown, not if movement restrictions have been applied due to overdue TB testing
  • Approved Finishing Units (AFU) in England and Wales
  • Approved Finishing Units (Enhanced) with grazing (AFUE) in England

 

Calves 42 days old and over normally need to have been TB tested in the previous 30 days to move to a TBIU, or in the previous 90 days to move to an AFU, so please refer to the answer to the earlier question about selling cattle. Licences may also be issued for calves to move to approved TB dedicated gatherings (known as orange markets or collection centres) located in England, where these continue to operate. Cattle 42 days old and over must have been TB tested with negative results in the previous 90 days even if the test of all eligible cattle in the herd is not possible and remains overdue.

 

For herds that are in a TB breakdown situation or where officially TB free (OTF) status has been suspended due to suspected TB lesions being detected at routine slaughter, requests for a licence to move calves to an AFU/AFUE or via an orange market will be considered on a case-by-case basis and subject to the satisfactory outcome of a risk assessment.

The options are limited if the herd test that is overdue cannot be completed. You could consider buying a portable bail to milk the heifers and/or purchasing calves to consume this milk or to suckle the heifers. Please refer to contingency planning advice about how to make your business resilient to the effect of TB movement restrictions and it’s worth considering this for the future.

No. The risk of moving cattle, including calves under 42 days old, from a herd with an incomplete testing history to another herd that has lost its OTF status is considered too high to allow these moves.  Moves to AFUs can be considered as these units are approved, monitored and subject to stringent biosecurity requirements, and all cattle go to slaughter.

Cattle moving between a permanent CPH (pCPH) and a tCPH must comply with pre-movement TB testing requirements, and in a breakdown situation normally need to have been tested in the previous 30 days. For non-breakdown herds with overdue TB tests, where the cattle being moved remain within the same business, these moves can be considered up until three months after the end date of the original testing window. Wherever possible, the cattle should be pre-movement tested before moving even if the whole herd test cannot be completed. The tCPH must be within the same bTB risk area and will be placed under movement restrictions. The herd TB test will need to be completed on all eligible animals, including those moved to the tCPH if they were not pre-movement tested. For herds that are in a TB breakdown situation or where officially TB free (OTF) status has been suspended due to suspected TB lesions being detected at routine slaughter, requests for a licence to move cattle between a pCPH and a tCPH without the required pre-movement test will be considered on a case-by-case basis and subject to the satisfactory outcome of a risk assessment.