The Department of Agriculture has extended a number of flexibilities around the TB testing of cattle until 1 August 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main flexibility is around the TB testing of calves, with the Department stating that calves up to 120 days of age can move between herds without needing to be TB tested.

This is provided that the herd from which they are moving from retains a TB-free status at the time of the movement.

This exemption does not apply to reactor retests, nor to the requirements for TB testing for export. Calves over 120 days must be tested if moving out of the herd.

The Department continues to advise that 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.

Grace period

If a farmer is not available to present their cattle for TB testing as they are self-isolating due to symptoms of COVID-19, the farmer should follow HSE advice and not present animals for testing.

If possible, alternative arrangements should be made so that someone else can assist with the TB test on their behalf.

If this is not possible, the regional veterinary office should be informed and the test can be delayed.

“The herd will have its trading status suspended when it becomes overdue for being out of test. This suspension will be applied after a 28-day grace period from the due date, during which the herd can continue to trade.

“When the suspension is then applied, moves directly to slaughter will still be permitted,” the Department said.

Key advice

Those involved in carrying out a TB test should act in accordance with the guidance of the HSE at all times:

  • Before commencing, the vet 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.
  • Only essential personnel should be allowed to be present during a TB test. No children or non-essential adults should be present at any time during the test.
  • Avoid direct close contact such as hand shaking.
  • Use outdoor facilities where practicable.
  • When moving between farms – vets should fully and properly disinfect, including hand washing.
  • Do not test an animal where the vet or farmer form the opinion that social distancing guidelines cannot be complied with.