CUMBRIAN and Lancashire farmers are calling on Defra to introduce post-movement testing of cattle which have been brought to the area from bovine TB hotspots and edge zones.

Around 160 farmers voted in favour of the move during an open meeting called by the National Farmers’ Union and the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) at J36 Rural Auction Centre, Crooklands, on Monday.

They heard from animal health experts how the recent outbreaks of bovine TB affecting South Lakeland, Furness and north Lancashire had all been triggered by cattle bought in from areas where the disease was endemic.

After the meeting, South Lakeland farmer and North West Auctions director Trevor Wilson described the vote as ‘a very positive step’.

“Post-movement testing where cattle have been brought in from high risk or edge areas is vital to keep Cumbria clean,” he said.

“I welcome any measure that will make local farmers think twice about buying cattle from these areas. There is always a temptation for a farmer to buy a cheaper bull from a sale in, say, Cheshire or the South West, but this could put Cumbria at risk.

“Something needs to be done to change farmers’ behaviour and post-movement testing would be very helpful in this.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to keep our county clean – if bovine TB ever got into the wildlife population here it would be really bad. You could cull the cattle but the disease would always be there – you wouldn’t be able to break the cycle.”

Speakers at Monday’s meeting included Gonzalo Sanchez, the AHVLA’s north regional veterinary lead, who gave an update of the TB situation in the region, Ian McGrath, a Cheshire farmer and member of the Government’s TB advisory panel, and Carl Padgett, former British Veterinary Association president, who spoke about the biology and science of TB and its control.

A Defra spokesman told The Westmorland Gazette: “Our comprehensive TB eradication strategy already uses a risk-based approach to cattle testing based on the level of TB in the area they are located.

“However, we want to improve risk-based testing. That is why we are reviewing the current approach to identifying higher risk herds and taking on recommendations from research.”