TB Advisory Service

The national TB Advisory Service for farmers, launched in October 2017, is continuing under a new contract delivered by Farmcare Solutions. This is a collaboration between Vet Partners, Independent Vet Care, UK Farmcare and Obligace (a consortium of independent veterinary practices). Both cattle farmers and keepers of farmed non-bovine animals in all areas of England can register for the free service by telephone or email.

The TB Advisory service provides free, bespoke advice about practical, cost-effective measures to build herd/flock resilience to bovine TB through:

  • On-farm advice visits
  • Telephone advice service
  • One-to-one advice drop-in clinics
TBAS logo - Bovine TB
Mother and calf - TB Hub

How can TBAS help you?

“We were in a rut of thinking that TB is inevitable. The TB Advisory Service visit helped us to realise that there are many things we can do to reduce our chances of getting bovine TB.”
Holstein cattle grazing - Bovine TB
Dairy farmer
Somerset
Farmyard view - TB Hub

On-farm advice visits

The TB Advisory Service offers one-to-one on-farm advice visits, where experienced advisors provide bespoke recommendations to reduce the risk of TB infection in herds/flocks that are currently TB-free, whilst discussing trading options and measures to prevent repeated re-infection for farms that are currently under TB restrictions.

Eligible farmers can request an advisory visit with the service’s trained bovine TB advisors at no cost. Advisory visits normally take around two hours, and you are encouraged to invite your own vet along.

Farm paperwork - TB hub

The adviser will ask about your farm business, concerns you currently have about bovine TB, and issues you may face in the future. The advisor will then walk around your farm buildings and fields with you to better understand your current situation and assess on-farm biosecurity. At the end of the visit, the adviser will discuss with you what they have seen and what they feel you can do to improve your herd/flock's resilience to bovine TB. 

After the visit you will receive a bespoke report including recommendations of practical measures you can implement to improve on-farm biosecurity and trading practices, if applicable. You are encouraged to share this report with your vet. You will also receive a follow up call and/or email to gather your feedback on the service, and to see how you are getting on with implementing the suggested recommendations. 

Bulls at country show - TB Hub

Telephone advice service 

If you contact the TB Advisory Service requesting telephone advice on bovine TB, your details and questions will be passed to an adviser who will call you back to discuss the issue. Following the phone call, you will receive a summary of the advice given, either by email or through the post.

TBAS Awards 2021 – winners announced

The aim of the TBAS Awards was to champion the hard work and effort many farmers are doing to reduce the risk of a TB breakdown and the impact TB can have on farm businesses. Over the last three years we have held meetings, attended shows, spoken at farming events for us to engage with farmers and vets in the concept of #ControlTheControllable.

TB is all too often seen as a Government issue, a disease which farmers and vets can have little influence over. Here at TBAS, our aim is to change that mind set, and to share the science and evidence around TB to encourage farmers to take back some ownership and control. We are delighted to share our TBAS Award winners and what they have done on farm to #ControlTheControllable.

TB advisor winner: Kate Parrish MRCVS, Fairfield House Vets (sponsor VetPartners)

Kate was nominated by her client Elizabeth Buchanan. Elizabeth farms in East Sussex and was shocked and devastated when last spring they had their first TB breakdown. She talks about feeling like their world was ending, especially for her grandmother who had established the herd of organic pedigree Sussex cattle from scratch nearly a century ago. The practical aspects of having to TB test whilst cattle were out at summer grazing was also a huge pressure.

Elizabeth had a visit from TBAS and says the service and advisor could not have been more helpful. She has implemented not only the four recommendations we suggested, but also other biosecurity measures discussed at the visit. Elizabeth said “Kate could see how anxious we were and talked us through all that needed to be done. She was kind, patient and so empathetic”.

The judges were impressed with Kate’s understanding of the impact TB had on her client and although not carrying out the breakdown testing within the practice, she still gave the information and advice that a farmer’s private vet should be giving, just like vets do for all other infectious diseases. British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) president Nikki Hopkins said “the private vet’s role as the ‘trusted advisor’ is so underestimated. Knowing the farm, the business, the geography it is situated in and more importantly knowing the farmer themselves, is key to TB eradication on an individual farm. Private vets need to look at what their role is on farm, which isn’t just about the TB test itself.”

Raised mineral lick holder and water trough implemented following the TBAS visit.

Advisor award special mention

Simon Smith and Graeme Smith were both independent TBAS advisors and were nominated by the admin team within TBAS. The admin staff who take all the farmer enquiries and feedback for the service said “of all the TBAS advisors these two are by far the most prolific, we always have excellent feedback and comments about them. Their knowledge of the subject and the ability to give practical on farm advice is invaluable and farmers recognise that”.  Sarah Tomlinson TBAS Technical Director said these two advisors epitomise the TBAS ethos and have been fundamental to the success of the service.

Innovator winner: David Hellier (sponsor NFU)

David was nominated by his business partner and wife Alice Hellier. David and Alice are dairy farmers on the Somerset/ Wiltshire border. Their herd has been in and out of TB restrictions for over 12 years, losing around 10 animals per year. In 2018 they lost 35 six month old calves. 

They thought about what could have caused so many young animals to get infected with TB and realised that some of the paddocks used for the calves were surrounded by woodland with high numbers of badgers. The Hellier’s were feeding the calves in low troughs on the ground and soon realised that they had also been supplementing the local badger population during the very dry summer that year. TBAS carried out a visit and identified areas where TB could be entering the farm and gave practical advice as to what could be done to reduce the risks and to change the way the calves were being fed was a notable one. 

Alice describes David “taking the bull by the horns to control the controllable”. He tried to find suitable troughs to fit their farm, environment and practices but could find nothing that would work. Instead, he designed his own troughs; simple, easy to move by staff and most importantly badger proof.

The Hellier’s have also badger-proofed the calf sheds where ad lib cake is fed and started to use more sexed semen so that if the worst should happen again there would be fewer calves to move off whilst under TB restrictions. Judge James Wood said “I hope that when farmers see what David has done, it helps them realise what they could do themselves on farm for their own business. He saw a problem without an obvious solution and designed his own”.

Innovator special mention

Alan Hughes is a farmer who has designed the ‘TB Buster’ mineral lick holder. With a history of TB on his cattle farm in Shropshire, the advice from vets was that badgers sharing mineral licks, feed and water troughs were a major risk factor. Not finding anything suitable on the market he designed and developed his own mineral lick holder which the Royal Agricultural University has tested; “badgers were unable to access the mineral licks held in the TB Buster and it can withhold substantial interaction from cattle”. Alan has also developed a badger proof universal creep feeder.

Dairy winner: Jamie and Ally Cook (Sponsor Arla)

The Cook’s were nominated by Andy Robertson of the National Trust, who as one of the judges, obviously sat out of judging this category. Jamie and Ally farm an organic dairy herd in Devon which has been under TB restrictions for over three years. As with many large dairy farms, movement restrictions have caused problems with rearing all the calves. Being National Trust tenants meant that they were not permitted to join any local badger culling licence applications, which has added to the Cook’s stressful situation.

Despite not being able to control the wildlife risk through badger culling, they didn’t give up. They have remained positive and have been proactive in trying to do all they can to reduce their TB risk. In 2019 Jamie and Ally had a TBAS visit and since then have implemented significant badger-proofing measures to their farmyard and buildings. Most have been installed by themselves at minimal cost, including the mesh panels over the calf feed.

They have received external detailed farm business advice quantifying the impact TB has on the business and as a result have made some informed management decisions such as reducing cattle numbers so as to reduce the amount of rented land needed away from home. As National Trust tenants they have actively engaged in the badger vaccination program run by the Trust. They have just celebrated their second consecutive clear TB test and are now officially TB free.

Judge Stuart Roberts said “All too often farmers feel the only option to reduce TB in their cattle herds is to cull badgers. The Cook’s, through no decision of their own, could not. It would have been so easy for them to have felt demoralised and defeated, but instead they engaged in what they could do to reduce badger and cattle contact and disease spread between local cattle. They controlled the controllable”.

Dairy award special mention

Marcus Hohl farms in North Devon and in 2018 his herd suffered its first TB breakdown for 20 years. He worked with his vet and identified the TB problem to be in a specific group of animals. The Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) carried out interferon-gamma blood testing of the affected group to reduce the risk of bringing TB back into the herd. He implemented biosecurity measures at pasture which included fencing off a stream that was used by badgers and cattle and installing raised water troughs in the problem paddocks. Through a combination of addressing cattle to cattle spread and the TB risk from badgers, his herd has successfully become officially TB free again and has also become CHECS TB accredited. Marcus was nominated by his vet Adam Reid, from Torch Farm Vets. Adam has supported TBAS as one of our advisors and in his nomination highlights the work TBAS has done to encourage private vets to work as part of the farm team to help eradicate TB from a herd or reduce the risk of a breakdown.

Sucker winner: Juliet Cleave (sponsor Suckler Beef Producers Association)

Juliet farms pedigree Devon cattle in Cornwall. She told us that her herd had been TB free for 8 years but living in the South West she was always in fear of a TB breakdown. She has proactively taken action to reduce the risk of introducing TB into the herd. No mineral licks are used; instead the cows are bloused. No cattle are fed on the ground and all troughs are high legged, including those for weaned calves. All water troughs are cleaned out before cattle use them and no equipment is shared with other farms, including muck spreaders. All hard feed is stored in sealed containers and badger activity is monitored all year round. All visitors are expected to arrive clean.

Keeping a pedigree herd, Juliet is engaged in proactive infectious disease management as a member of the Cattle Health Certification Standards (CHECS) and does not see TB control any differently. The main control measure for all infectious diseases in the CHECS standards is reducing the infection risk from incoming stock.

CHECS TB herd accreditation requires a period of isolation and post movement TB testing. Juliet took full advantage of a free TBAS visit which was carried out by one of our trained advisors who also happened to be her own vet which she saw as a massive plus. She has also completed an online TB biosecurity course run by Land Based Learning which reiterated the TBAS messaging of identifying risk and reducing or eliminating it where you can. One of the important take-home messages is asking about the TB history of the herd of origin and using ibTB to check the seller’s herd’s TB status in England and Wales.

Judge Andy Robertson said “This was an impressive entry as Juliet has delt with TB as she would with any other infectious disease and made choices to eliminate and reduce the risk of a TB breakdown. Many farmers only think about TB after the worst has happened and see their herd suffering a breakdown an inevitable consequence.”

Suckler award special mention

Paul Brereton was nominated by one of our very experienced TBAS advisors and his private vet Rose Palmer. Having suffered a TB breakdown as a relatively new herd, Paul vowed to do everything in his power never to have to go through the same experience again. Working out what the TB breakdown cost him in man hours, let alone in lost stock, pushed him to invest in badger-proofing his farm, understanding it to be cost effective. He invested in badger-proof stock fencing, badger-proof water and feed troughs and raised all his mineral licks. His herd is CHECS TB accredited and he sees this as a tool not only to stay TB free, but also reassures any buyers that despite being in the High Risk Area (HRA), his herd has a lower TB risk.  Shropshire was one of the first counties in the HRA to move to default six-monthly surveillance testing. As a CHECS TB accredited herd, Paul’s cattle can remain on annual surveillance testing as APHA also see his herd as lower risk for TB.

Rearer/ Finisher Winner: Doug Dear (Sponsor SellMyLivestock)

Doug farms just outside Selby in North Yorkshire where he finishes cattle for farmers on a bed and breakfast system. All cattle feed intake and weight gain is monitored and Doug offers a marketing service to match the right specification cattle to the right end-buyer. Doug said on his entry form “As we are in a four-yearly surveillance testing area it was the responsible path to take to become a Licenced Finishing Unit (LFU) to protect the low risk status of the surrounding area, wildlife, and our neighbour’s cattle”.

Being an LFU has advantages for the business too. There is no statutory surveillance, post-movement or trace testing, and importantly for neighbours, no radial testing if there is a TB slaughterhouse case.

Doug’s responsible attitude, mindset change and the amount of work and expense he has put into ensuring the unit functions well not only as a beef unit but also to ensure it doesn’t put surrounding businesses at risk, impressed the judge. Doug has also been very open with farmers about his business and regularly speaks at meetings to discuss the process of becoming an LFU.

Judge Stuart Roberts said, “I am delighted to see Doug win this award. The fact that Doug not only has invested in his own finishing unit but has also done so in a way that recognises the importance of protecting the low risk status of neighbouring units and wildlife is a real credit to him. I really hope in years to come we see more people following this example”.

TBAS technical Director Sarah Tomlinson comments

All these winners have embraced the principles that we at TBAS promote. Control the controllable. If you can’t eliminate every risk, you can at least reduce them. All the TBAS award winners had taken advantage of free TBAS advice and found the information invaluable. Their private vet has also been a key advisor in many of the entry’s situations and this is something TBAS has always encouraged. All our advisors have empathy for the stress and anxiety around TB, and they deal with the individual situations on farm in a bespoke manor whist offering practical advice and recommendations based on science and evidence. Congratulations to all our winners and to every farmer who has voluntarily taken TBAS advice on board and proactively changed the way they address TB risk management and eradication.