Animal disease testing to continue amid coronavirus

NFU Scotland animal health and welfare policy manager Penny Middleton

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Revised Scottish Government guidance has been issued on official testing for livestock during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The guidance is aimed at managing the risk associated with coronavirus together with the ongoing need to protect animal health and welfare and avoid the long-term consequences of loss of disease control measures.

NFU Scotland animal health and welfare policy manager Penny Middleton said: ‘NFU Scotland has received a number of enquiries regarding the necessity of some statutory testing during the Covid-19 shutdown.

Statutory testing programmes, such as BVD or TB, are part of legislative requirements and there is no capacity at the moment to change or suspend the regulations, meaning all legislated testing should continue. It is also important to maintain the health gains the industry has already achieved, as much as possible.

‘If statutory testing is ignored, disease can quickly spread unchecked. When TB testing was suspended during the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001 it resulted in long-term consequences of silent, unchecked spread other parts of the UK are still dealing with.

‘The guidance issued by the Scottish Government will remain under review and could be subject to further change as the current situation develops.’

Scottish Government guidance

Provided you can practice safe social distancing, apply hygiene and sanitation measures and comply with all other standard health and safety requirements, statutory testing should continue for now.

This includes:

TB (four-yearly herd tests, post import and breakdown investigation)

  • BVD annual herd screening (by check test, testing all calves or testing all animals)
  • Anthrax inquiries
  • Brucella (post import and abortion reports)
  • TSE (post-mortem sampling)
  • Salmonella testing (poultry flocks)

If sampling/testing is impossible due to Covid-19 constraints, herds will be identified as overdue for the statutory test. If you are unable to carry out a test please document the reason why in case of future audit.

The usual restrictions will apply to herds with overdue TB and BVD testing.  These will be reversed as soon as required testing is completed.
Cattle can move direct to an abattoir regardless of their BVD status.
The usual enforcement procedures will be modified or waived as appropriate.

Farmers should avoid risky behaviour and accept that incomplete surveillance may increase the risk of disease. We would encourage all farmers to buy animals with care and keep purchased animals separate from the existing herd/flock.