The background to the changes which I introduced earlier this year is that, now that the main constraint to the eradication of TB, the presence of the disease in badgers, is being addressed in a very effective manner, we need to move on to address some of the other constraints such as the movement of high risk animals and animals from high risk herds. Accordingly, my Department is paying increased attention to detecting the disease and preventing its spread to other herds and greater stress is being laid on ensuring that all herds test on time and on reducing movement opportunities for potentially infected cattle so as to provide increased protection for clear herds.
These measures are underpinned by research which indicates that movement of animals from the herds in question represents a significant risk to other herdowners who would otherwise buy these animals. For example, Department statistics show that, in 2011, the risk of herds which are contiguous to a high risk breakdown disclosing TB is almost 3 times greater than the risk in the case of herds tested on a round test. In view of the fact that contiguous tests were conducted on some 8,000 herds in 2011, involving almost 800,000 animals and resulting in the disclosure of 2,256 reactors, the risk of TB spreading from herds which are contiguous to high risk breakdowns is very significant.
With regard to the changes to the contiguous testing arrangements, the position is that herds which are contiguous to a high risk breakdown were already required to undergo an additional testing regime under the previous arrangements. The contiguous testing programme only applies to those herds contiguous to a high risk breakdown (approximately one third of all restrictions) which, after a risk based epidemiological investigation, are considered to be relevant to the breakdown. In relation to holdings that have not held livestock in the previous four months or more, assuming that those holdings now have cattle, the testing regime to be deployed in such cases is dependant on an epidemiological investigation, including into the timing of the spread of infection relative to the usage of the land in question and whether the herd has had a clear test since the last time the land was used.