Torch Farm Vets Newsletter – April 2018

Includes news on Changes to TB Testing, Analysis of Suckler Herd Performance, Diary Dates and more

Please click the link to view as a PDFTorch Farm Vets April 2018 Newsletter


As part of the Government strategy   to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in England, some new control measures have been introduced. Most of this happened in 2017, while some measures will be phased in over the course of 2018.

Compulsory gamma testing (blood test) will be used to supplement the skin test and help resolve TB breakdowns with lesion and/or culture positive animals in the High Risk Areas.

This will happen if any of the following criteria have been met:

•  veterinary investigations concluded that the likely source of infection was infected cattle

•  the infected herd is located in one of the areas where at least two years of effective licensed badger population control have been completed

•  there is evidence that repeated skin testing of the herd has failed to resolve a TB incident

When gamma testing takes place between skin tests, the date of the next scheduled skin test (at least 60 days after the removal of reactors) will not be affected, even if positive animals are identified by the blood test. However additional skin testing may be required, depending on post mortem results.

Stricter interpretation of tracer test will be introduced to minimise the chance of missing reactors and all tracer tests will be interpreted as severe. In addition to that, any inconclusive reactor disclosed on any test will remain restricted for the rest of their life to the holding in which they were identified and they can only be transported to slaughter.

If the keeper wants to sell those animals,  a private and chargeable gamma test on blood must be carried out.  However, only animals over six months of age are eligible for this test. If the result is positive the animal will be classed as reactor and will be slaughtered and compensated.

In regards to interpretation, some changes were already introduced in April 2016 when all TB breakdown herds in England have a test disclosing reactors re-interpreted at severe interpretation regardless of the post mortem results.

Some clarification guidance has also been issued in 2018 about testing calves under 42 days of age. If a test is completed in multiple parts and the vet carrying out the test has to return to the same location to complete the test, all animals that have become older than 42 days since the initial part must be tested.

TB has been a long standing problem in most of the South West. However, a study carried out in 2015 showed that even in High Risk Areas 43% of holdings never had TB and 54% of holdings did not have reactors in the past five years.

As the likelihood of disclosing reactors decreases with the number of years that a herd has been free from the disease, an official Bovine TB Accreditation Scheme based on a point system has been introduced.

The Scheme gives recognition to the farms that have been dealing with Tb successfully and at the same time helps farms that have been struggling with the disease to identify risk areas and best prevention methods thus working towards eradication.

For any queries about the scheme or about the new control measures, please contact a member of our team.


Please call Bideford before 8.45 am for morning drop off to Torrington and before 1pm for afternoon deliveries. THANK YOU!


The Torch Farm Vets Facebook page has been very active over the last few weeks, giving away calf jackets and a chocolate hamper to a couple of lucky winners. Make sure you’ve liked us to stay up-to-date with our news, join in with our fab giveaways and be the first to hear about forthcoming events and courses.


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Unlike dairy herds, data to analyse suckler herd performance can be limited. Farm recording is often incomplete, however data downloaded from BCMS can be used as a more accurate tool to analyse performance.

Assessment of changes can only be achieved by farm data analysis. Current farm performance needs to be known and show where input can be made to help improve margins. BCMS data can be used to determine key areas of suckler herd productivity including calving spread, age distribution of the herd and age at which animals leave the holding.

Torch Farm Vets will be holding a meeting in May where these key areas will be discussed. Performance reports will be given confidentially to all of those attending. Benchmarking of this data will be used and help as a guide to improve the margins of your suckler herd.

Invite and more information to follow soon


You may be aware of the #ColostrumIsGold campaign in February.

This was led by RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance) and supported by key figures and organisations in the industry.

The aim is to reduce the amount of antibiotic used on farms and look at ways to reduce the need for preventative doses through prevention of disease.

Within the sheep calendar preventative doses of antibiotics might be used in lambs at birth. By working together at prevention of disease it is often possible to reduce or even eliminate reliance on these preventative doses.

RUMA and leading sheep vets are encouraging reduction of antibiotics by challenging the view that lambs should be  treated routinely from the start of a new lambing season. This is not to say preventative treatments should not be used at all, but good management with regards to environment and nutrition will reduce the need for preventative treatments.

When preventative doses are required, the most sustainable approach should be based on the risk of watery mouth to the individual lamb, and not on a ‘just in case’ basis.

Through regular health planning visits we know that it is possible to achieve the goal of most lambs being born on farms in this area do not receive antibiotics at birth. These visits also allow us to discuss strategies to reduce antibiotic use in those flocks even where ‘blanket treated’ of lambs at birth has traditionally been required.

It is satisfying how more and more of our farmers are cutting back on routine dosing and reporting to us that they have seen no more disease than when they previously treated everything.

For more information please speak to one of the Torch sheep team.



Thu 5 April: 1pm with Emily Linton

Thu 10 May: 10am with Kiera Schubert

Thu 7 June: 10am with Emily Linton

These courses will be held at;

Charter Veterinary Hospital, Roundswell, Barnstaple EX31 3FG

Please speak to Kiera or Emily for more information, or call reception to book your place.


Sat 21st April

Barnstaple Chiefs vs Worthing Raiders at Barnstaple Rugby Club

Kick off is at 2.30pm but please join us from 1pm for lunch and refreshments

Spaces are limited so please call 01769 610000 to reserve your place.


Mon 23rd – Weds 25th April

This will be a FULL cattle breeding course for 3 days, which will cover all aspects of AI, and will be predominately practical tuition. There will also be an inclusive refresher in 6-8 weeks time.

Day 1: South Molton

Day 2 & 3: Parkham

SUCKLER PRODUCERS: You can apply for 50% of the AI course cost to be covered by AHDB Beef & Lamb. To see if you qualify, visit

Spaces are limited so please call your local practice for more info and to book


Tue 12th June

More details will follow next month so watch this space!




Torch Farm Vets Newsletter – April 2018