Advice for when TB is identified on your farm

More than 15,000 cattle tested positive for TB last year, according to Department of Agriculture statistics with some 4,000 herd owners affected.

The department has some key advice for farmers when TB is identified in their herds.

Firstly the department is keen to highlight the health risk to humans that TB can pose. It stresses that the organism that causes TB in cattle can also infect humans. It says never consume unpasteurised milk as it can carry infection, wash and disinfect your hands after handling animals and wear a mask and protective clothing when spreading slurry.

The department also advises that isolation of the infection is vital when TB is identified. It says farmers must attempt to prevent the further spread of the disease within their herd by: isolating all reactors immediately from the rest of the herd; withholding milk of reactors from the bulk tank and not feeding that milk to calves; cleaning and disinfecting buildings with a power wash; and an approved disinfectant, keeping cattle together in their existing groups.

A key area that could be over looked by farmers when dealing with TB in their herd is animal waste management. The department stresses farmers must remember they are prohibited by law to spread contaminated slurry on a grazing area. This is because TB-infected cattle may pass TB organism in their dung and it can survive for six months or longer in liquid slurry.

To reduce the risk of spreading the disease, the department advises that farmers should: stack and compost cattle manure for a minimum of one month before spreading; storing slurry for a minimum of two months but preferably for six months; spreading slurry on land used for tillage, silage or hay but not while cattle are on adjacent fields; ensuing the slurry spreading equipment is cleansed and disinfected before and after use, adding lime to slurry.

Finally the department outline a number of key ways farmers can protect their herd and those of their neighbours from TB.

It says having adequate fencing so as to avoid nose-to-nose contact between neighbours cattle and your own and to avoid going wild deer access to your land. Other advice includes: provide cattle drinking water from a clean source, do not share equipment, cattle crushes, pens housing and farm roadways, carry out TB tests promptly when requested, ensure a high level of nutrition for all animals and practice good animal welfare.

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