Following ongoing discussions and consultation with farming and veterinary stakeholders, the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine has revised the protocol for TB testing.
It published an updated version of the document earlier today (Monday, January 11th).
The department confirmed that arrangements will be in place until April 1st, 2021, subject to review.
A department spokesperson said:
“During this challenging period associated with COVID-19 pandemic, the department continues to seek to facilitate farmers in continuing efforts to eradicate TB and undertake testing as required, while also facilitating the continuation of animal movements and the continuity of all elements of the food supply chain.”
“The overriding principle in all situations is that the health and safety of farmers, vets, service providers, contractors, other staff and their families is paramount.”
“These arrangements will continue in place until 1st April 2021, subject to review. The COVID-19 situation is evolving, and in this context, this guidance may change as a result. Updated guidance will be issued as necessary, based on HSE information.”
TB testing cattle during pandemic
The Department stated it is continuing to support farmers through this difficult time by prioritising the delivery of essential services for farmers.
“The Department 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 if further actions are required to be taken.”
Where a herd cannot be TB tested due to COVID19 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.
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.
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 will apply until April 1st, 2021, at which point it will be reviewed.
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 >42 days of age.
Conducting TB tests during pandemic
The Department has issued specific guidance for private veterinary practitioners (PVPs) and farmers when TB testing cattle during the current Covid-19 outbreak.
Specific guidance for private veterinary practitioners (PVPs) and farmers related to COVID19 when TB testing cattle.
- People involved in carrying out a TB test are advised to act in accordance with HSE guidance.
- 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.
- 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 handshaking.
- Use outdoor facilities where practicable
- When moving between farms – PVPs should fully and properly disinfect, including hand washing.
- Do not test an animal where the PVP
Follow best practice and HSE Guidelines on hygiene
For your own protection and the protection of others, people involved in TB testing must be familiar with the HSE guidelines especially:
- Wash your hands frequently – especially having been in contact with surfaces used by others
- Practice good respiratory hygiene, – when coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately.
- Maintain physical distancing, that is, leave at least a 2 metre distance between yourself and other people
- If that is not possible attempt to maintain 1M physical distancing
- Consider the use of face coverings as advised by the HSE
- Do not shake hands
- Avoid crowded places especially indoors
- Reduce the number of people you meet.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.