With the increase in the TB advisory service (TBAS) training across our practices, now is a great time to look at what TBAS can offer you and our top tips for TB control. Following some fantastic training by Sarah Tomlinson and the TBAS team, many of our vets are now appropriately prepared to carry out free TBAS visits.

As part of this novel approach to controlling TB, we need to view TB as its own infectious disease. By doing so, we can develop recommendations personalised
to your farm and formulate an action plan to reduce your risk and length of a TB breakdown. These recommendations are designed to be “no regrets” measures where they should not involve a large financial or time commitment to implement.

The initial stages of TBAS visit involve one of our vets looking at your farm set up with a TB focus, highlighting high-risk areas and identifying potential future issues. A conversation to address your concerns over TB followed by a walk around the farm buildings and fields helps us to better understand the current situation. This is where we discuss potential areas where TB can enter the herd and how we can control them to reduce or eliminate the risk. Concluding the visit, we will generate four simple, cost-effective and practical recommendations that we can implement on your farm.

Custom made lick holders on this farm to prevent badger access. High off the ground. (if you’re interested we can put you in touch with who has made them)

This is followed up by a second visit 6 months later where we assess what recommendations have been implemented and the costs, both monetary and time, associated with it.

By doing TBAS visits, we ensure that TB is addressed on farm as thoroughly as any other infectious disease which means you can feel much more in control about your TB risk.

TBAS addresses six main risk factors: Purchased cattle, contact with neighbouring herds, your own animals, slurry spread, badgers and a contingency plan. The top recommendations from previous TBAS visits include using badger proof water and feed troughs, fencing off badger setts from cattle, using the website www.ibTB.co.uk to look up a sellers TB history prior to purchase and putting up wildlife cameras to identify what badger activity is in the farmyard and where to prioritise badger proofing measures.

Our top recommendations are explained below:

  1. Badger proofing water and feed troughs – Badgers have been observed climbing into troughs to feed, drink or even defecate. By raising troughs, using mechanisms such as rollers or outward sloping surfaces, tighter management in cleaning or emptying troughs or covering when not in use, you can deter badgers from easily climbing in.
  2. Fencing off badger setts from cattle – Where badger setts, latrines and runs are found within cattle pasture, fencing off the area prevents the cattle encountering potentially infectious material or grazing where badger activity is concentrated. Temporary fencing provides a rapid solution to prevent contact with fresh badger activity and the ability to remove easily should the activity cease or the latrine moves.
  3. Using ibTB – Information bovine TB provides a platform where breakdowns (current and historic) are displayed with the location, start date and end date as well as approved finishing unit locations. The use of this allows you to see the status of the herd where you are purchasing your cattle from so that you can make an informed decision and if necessary, take measures to mitigate the risk.
  4. Using wildlife cameras – Placing cameras in high-risk areas for contamination such as feed stores and cattle housing allows you to monitor wildlife activity and potential access points at a time of night when the badgers are most active. We have these to hire from our tech team, so let us know if you’re interested.

Badgers can get through gaps down to 7.5cm. A badger would just be able to squeeze through into the shed pictured above

These are several broad recommendations to give you an idea of how having a TBAS visit can benefit you. Imagine how much more beneficial it is when it is tailored to your farm! TBAS also covers advice for those farming other TB susceptible species (camelids, deer, goats, pigs and sheep).

With DEFRA currently funding the TB Advisory Service for the whole of England, what reason is there for not getting involved?

Some of the images here are taken from the TB Hub and it’s a great source of information about TB, breakdowns and prevention.

Badger drinking from the low water trough, replacement trough is higher than 1m.

ibTB map of the UK