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NPA rejects Defra proposals for additional TB controls on pigs

9th Nov 2016 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has largely rejected proposals by the Government to bring bovine TB (bTB) regulations for pigs and other non-bovines into line with those in place for cattle.

ZDIn a six-page response to the Defra consultation, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies argues that TB breakdowns already have a disproportionate impact on pig farms, with the cost often far outweighing the risk of disease spread

Some of Defra’s proposed changes would only add to the burden for pig farmers while doing little to reduce disease risk, the NPA has told Defra.

Proposals include making it a duty to report suspicion of bTB in non-bovines, bringing some of the rules around testing, treating disease and vaccination into line with cattle and new Government powers to require the isolation of specific animals and prohibit the movement of animals on to or off of premises, except under licence.

There is also a proposal to introduce of new TB compensation rates for non-bovines, paying half of estimated market values.

The NPA's full response can be seen here

The NPA response states: “We completely accept that developing coherent transparent regulations is important and will aid greater compliance, but we disagree with your view that none of the proposed changes will impose significant new burdens on the pig sector.

“It appears that in some of the areas, change has been suggested to make life simpler for the regulator with little thought for the likely financial impact on the industry.”

It stresses that the consultation does not address the most important issue relating to bTB in pigs, one that NPA has been discussing with Defra for a number of years - the need to develop a sensible testing and exit strategy for affected herds that is proportionate to risk involved.

The NPA response adds: “The proposed additional controls appear to be at odds with the very low risk the pig herd poses to the spread and maintenance of bTB, despite continually referring to pigs (quite rightly) as spill-over hosts”

Realistic solution

It cites the example of an NPA member who has been under TB restriction since a cull sow was confirmed with bTB in May 2014. Since then, at least 60,000 pigs have gone through to slaughter from the restricted herd with no bTB disclosed or suspected and yet the farm remains under restriction with no exit strategy. 

The TB restrictions have already cost the business £300,000 in transport costs alone thanks to the need to divert pigs to an alternative abattoir. 

In the consultation response, Zoe urges Defra to work with NPA ‘to find a realistic solution to the problems facing affected herds’.

She wrote: “Being under restriction for a minimum of two years cannot be a sensible outcome for a very low risk sector!”

The NPA response also criticises Defra’s proposal to use the John Nix handbook to calculate compensation for pigs slaughtered because of bTB and suggests an alternative system that provides fairer and more accurate compensation values.  


Some of the key points from the NPA response...

Do you agree that we should apply the duty to report suspicion of TB in live bovine animals to all non-bovine species?

No. bTB is very difficult to identify in a live pig, so it is unlikely that this would yield any greater surveillance and place an unnecessary regulatory burden on pig farmers.  We believe that for pigs, the current requirements are sufficient when combined with continuous slaughter surveillance.

However, if Defra chooses to go ahead with this suggestion regardless, we would need to be reassured that farmers would not be unduly penalised if cases were found at abattoir that they had missed through no fault of their own on farm.

Do you agree we should apply to all non-bovine species the prohibitions and consent requirements relating to testing, treatment and vaccination that currently apply to bovines?

No we do not.  We do not understand why this is necessary for the pig sector. Whilst we understand the need for surveillance to aid national disease control, we believe that requiring consent for testing in the first instance may discourage people from carrying out any private testing programmes.

In accordance with the law, we are of the view that farmers should only have to notify Defra if any approved bTB test undertaken subsequently proved positive.