Department outlines revised Covid-19 protocol for TB testing

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has issued an update on the revised Covid-19 protocol for TB testing during the ongoing pandemic.

The arrangements will remain in place until April 1, 2021, subject to review, according to the department.

The department in a statement today (Monday, January 11) said it “supports TB testing continuity using safe practices which observe HSE guidelines, to protect trade and minimise TB spread at this time”.

“Those involved in carrying out a TB test should act in accordance with the guidance of the HSE at all times. The department will be guided by the HSE [Health Service Executive] if further actions are required to be taken.

“Where a herd cannot be TB tested due to Covid-19 related issues, the trading status of the herd will be suspended when the herd becomes overdue.

However, a grace period of 28 days from the date on which the herd test becomes due will be applied before this suspension comes into effect, during which the herd can continue trading.

“When the suspension is then applied, moves directly to slaughter will still be permitted,” the department’s statement said.

“Calves between 42 and 120 days of age should be TB tested only where both the farmer and the vet are satisfied that social distancing can be adhered to.”

On the latter point, the department states that: “If calves under 120 days are not tested, they will be eligible for movement once the herd retains its free status, until they reach 120 days of age.”

This exemption does not apply to reactor retests, nor to the requirements for TB testing for export. Where a calf aged under 120 days is intended for export, the requirement for a 30 day pre-export TB test remains in place for calves over 42 days of age, the authority notes.

Before commencing, the PVP should make a plan with the farmer regarding physical distancing. This can include greater use of a head restraining gate or use of a longer guide stick to help to raise heads, and should include discussion of the use of face coverings based on HSE guidance, the department says.

In situations where it is not possible to test every animal while observing the appropriate social distance, the department says that the private veterinary practitioner (PVP) “should submit the test report with untested animals accompanied by note ‘unable to restrain'”.

“Where there are untested animals aged over 120 days which ought normally to have been tested, the RVO [Regional Veterinary Office] will suspend the herd and list a Miscellaneous Animal Test to the testing vet/practice,” the department added.

“The vet can then make arrangements to test the remaining cattle when adequate restraint to allow social distancing has been provided – this may involve use of a pen with a restraining head gate. Such arrangements may be made for calves under 120 days of age in reactor herds.”