FAQ - CHeCS TB Programme
Updated: Sep 4, 2019
Extracted from CHeCS TB handbook
About the programme
Is the CHeCS bTB Herd Accreditation programme voluntary or compulsory?
The CHeCS bTB Herd Accreditation programme is voluntary. If you join, while you have to meet the requirements of the scheme, it is your choice whether you declare your risk status at any point, for example when selling cattle. You do, however, need to continue meeting statutory requirements.
Is it associated with proposed APHA risk level scoring?
No, that was a different plan which has been placed on hold. This is a different, voluntary, industry-run programme.
How do I join?
You apply to one of the participating Health Schemes listed on the CHeCS website (www.checs.co.uk). You will be asked to fill out a form and sign a data agreement that allows the Health Scheme to let APHA know you are now a member, and allows APHA to send your test history and any new data to the Health Scheme to allow it to allocate a bTB Herd Status score. For more information on the process of joining and the way a starting bTB Herd Status is allocated, please see Appendix 1.
How the CHeCS programme works alongside Government testing
How similar are the programme requirements to statutory control measures?
Statutory control measures are legal measures that must be observed, irrespective of membership of the CHeCS programme. However, the CHeCS programme adds extra measures to reduce risk of exposure to bTB and introduction of infection into the herd. Observing these measures presents a lower risk, which is then reflected in an improved Herd Status score. The main differences between statutory measures and CHeCS requirements is the increased level of pre- or post-movement testing and the added biosecurity.
Who does the bTB testing in CHeCS-accredited herds?
APHA continues to run the statutory testing programme and Defra and the Welsh Government will continue to pay for it. Pre- and post-movement bTB testing will be carried out, as now, by the herd vet at the cost of the seller and buyer respectively.
Will CHeCS scores have any impact on action APHA takes?
It has been indicated that Government is committed to rewarding good quarantine and biosecurity – it has not yet been confirmed what form this will take.
Where does CHeCS get its information?
When a farmer from Scotland, England or Wales joins the CHeCS bTB Herd Accreditation programme through one of the participating CHeCS-accredited Health Schemes, with their permission, their details will be notified to the centralised database held by Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and a ‘flag’ will be placed against their record. This means that any change to that record regarding testing, restrictions, breakdowns or clear tests will be notified to the CHeCS-accredited Health Scheme.
Is this creating another database of bTB information?
No – the Health Schemes will continue to keep their own records and are simply being notified of test results from the APHA/Defra database as they happen.
Is there any difference between the CHeCS data and APHA’s statutory data?
No, the data is the same but how it’s treated is different. To CHeCS, a breakdown in vet certified quarantine is unlikely to count as a herd breakdown, so CHeCS would use the TB10 data from when the last breakdown not in quarantine occurred to create a bTB Herd Status score. However, the APHA records would still identify a breakdown.
Where will CHeCS get my bTB test data from?
CHeCS will use a data agreement with the farmer to be able to access his/her APHA test results.
Will current Risk Based Trading information be the same as CHeCS information?
Risk Based Trading information asks for the cattle seller to disclose pre-movement test information and details of the last statutory test and last herd breakdown. CHeCS provides similar information but combines into a single bTB Herd Status score. It recognises the difference between breakdowns on the holding for an added animal held in quarantine, and breakdowns within the actual herd.
Doesn’t the area the animal comes from give a good indication of risk?
Some cattle purchasers will rely on the testing frequency in the area the animal originates from as a proxy for risk. This needs refining as it may exclude herds in the High Risk Area that are maintaining a clear status.
What are the legal obligations around the programme?
Bovine TB is subject to statutory measures. This means there are legal obligations around the testing, notification and control of bTB. The CHeCS bTB Herd Accreditation programme does not replace these but uses data supplied by APHA to help allocate Herd Status scores, which incentivise good practice and reward participation. While CHeCS-accredited Health Schemes will work with APHA data to ensure the process is accurate, cattle owners have an obligation to use the latest certificates awarded and not misrepresent their bTB Herd Status, as enforced under the Sales of Goods Act and Trading Standards.
What are the requirements to check biosecurity?
The herd vet must make an annual declaration that the farmer is abiding by the mandatory biosecurity measures required by the programme. For example, where stock risk physical contact with cattle owned by another keeper, it should be ensured there is a gap of at least 3 metres between the animals to prevent contact. Certifying these requirements have been met may require additional time, but if the vet and the farmer have already been working together to combat bTB, these aspects may already be known and just require certification.
What are the biosecurity measures?
Various requirements are laid out in the programme rules (see earlier sections) but farmers and vets are also recommended to follow the guidelines at www.tbhub/biosecurity.
Pre- and Post-movement testing
As part of the programme, will all animals being traded have to be pre-movement tested?
All animals to be introduced into a CHeCS herd must be subjected to a pre-movement skin test by the seller at the holding of origin within 60 days of the proposed introduction – unless they have resided, since birth, in a low-incidence area (the four-yearly testing area in England, or in Scotland). While this is a CHeCS requirement, it is also a statutory requirement for a farmer in Scotland buying from the four-yearly testing areas of England. There is already a statutory requirement to pre-movement test, within 60 days before sale, any animals moving off a holding within the six-monthly or annual testing areas into a four-yearly testing area.
Does this mean that as a farmer in the CHeCS programme, I can’t buy an animal unless it’s been pre-movement tested?
You can buy an animal that’s not been pre-movement testing as long as it has resided, since birth, in a low-incidence area (the four-yearly testing area in England, or in Scotland).
Will I have to post-movement test all purchased animals?
Post-movement skin testing of added animals is compulsory for members of the CHeCS bTB Herd Accreditation programme unless the animals have resided since birth in a CHeCS score 10 herd where there is no statutory requirement to pre-movement test. Again, quarantine measures and post-movement testing are also recommended for these, but not required.
Other questions about TB testing
Can I gamma-interferon test my animals to help me manage risk?
In England you can request a gamma-interferon test to be carried out privately as this may help you make management decisions, such as whether a bought-in animal can be released early from isolation/quarantine before it has its skin test. However, it’s important to note that all results will be notified to APHA and a positive test will signify an official breakdown. Also, the test cannot be used on its own to maintain or regain OTF status for any herds. Private gamma testing is not available in Scotland or Wales.
Who can carry out gamma interferon testing?
The private vet (Delivery Partner) can carry out the private gamma-interferon testing but they must request permission from APHA. Individual Health Schemes may apply to be providers as well. Please check with your Health Scheme.
What happens in the case of an inconclusive skin test result?
If you have an Inconclusive Reactor in a skin test, your CHeCS status will be suspended until the animal has been re-tested. If the Inconclusive Reactor is clear at re-test, your CHeCS status will revert to its previous score. If the animal has a second inconclusive reaction it will be regarded as a reactor and a breakdown will be deemed to have occurred. Your CHeCS status would then be 0 once you are OTF again unless the animal had been kept in approved quarantine since arriving on the holding.
How does the certification process work?
Once a farmer has joined the programme, the Health Scheme will award a certificate depending on the test information received back from APHA and declaration from your local vet that you are compliant with the mandatory elements of the CHeCS scheme. If the herd is currently under restriction (ie, not OTF at that time), it will not be possible to receive a bTB Herd Status score until the herd becomes OTF again. The starting bTB Herd Status score will depend on the 10 year test data received from APHA.
How often does the certificate or bTB Herd Status get reviewed?
The certificate will be reviewed and updated every year unless there is a notification between times of a breakdown, which will trigger a suspension of the bTB Herd Status then a review once the herd is OTF again.
Can the farmer request his/her bTB Herd Status is reviewed, for example if the herd meets the requirements of a better bTB Herd Status during the year?
Yes, the farmer can request this and, if his/her claim is valid, receive an updated certificate, which will then be renewed annually from that point. For more detail on the processes for updating certificates, please see Appendix 2.
How much will extra testing cost?
All CHeCS programmes carry extra testing requirements as this is needed to gain certification. The cost of doing this will vary depending on your vet but needs to be balanced against reduced risk of breakdown and potential added-value of a lower risk status
How can costs of extra testing be minimised?
Costs can be reduced by combining testing with vet herd visits or statutory testing, and average cost per animal reduced by testing more animals at the same time to dilute the cost of the herd visit. It might also be useful to combine this with other CHeCS disease control programmes as similar quarantine and biosecurity measures apply to all, and some vet costs can be defrayed by dealing with more than one disease at a time.
How much does it cost to join the bTB Herd Accreditation Scheme?
Each Health Scheme will charge slightly differently, but as the information is being handled on a herd rather than individual animal basis, you are likely to have a very modest single annual charge.
Who can join and who will it benefit?
As a cattle rearer selling stores, can I join the programme?
Yes you can but it should be noted that bought-in animals that you subsequently sell will not be sold with your herd’s bTB Herd Status score. Only homebred animals will be sold with your herd’s bTB Herd Status score. This is in line with the CHeCS accreditation schemes for other diseases.
If some of my animals are bought in and some homebred, how does that affect the status of my farm?
Your farm status is unaffected by this but only homebred animals can be sold with your herd’s bTB Herd Status score.
Buying and selling animals
What is the process for selling animals?
As a member of the scheme, you will receive a certificate declaring your score. This is valid for 12 months unless a breakdown occurs, after which a new certificate will be issued. You can also request your bTB Herd Status is reviewed at any point in the year if you think you may have moved into a different risk bracket. At sale, if you wish to use your CHeCS bTB Herd Accreditation, you will take your current certificate to the auction mart or show it to the seller in a direct sale. Only homebred animals will be sold with your herd’s bTB Herd Status score. This is in line with the CHeCS accreditation schemes for other diseases.
What is the process for buying animals?
If the person selling the animals is a member of the CHeCS bTB Herd Accreditation programme (voluntary) and wishes to announce the bTB Herd Status of his/her holding at the point of the sale (also voluntary), the information should be communicated in the same way a BVD or other disease status is communicated, either verbally or on a display board. However, the bTB Herd Status of the herd the animal has come from does not transfer to your herd, and the animal cannot be sold on again under the CHeCS bTB Herd Accreditation programme. Only homebred animals will be sold with your herd’s bTB Herd Status score. This is in line with the CHeCS accreditation schemes for other diseases.
Can I apply my herd score to bought-in animals when I come to sell them, especially if I am buying in animals from a lower risk herd?
No, animals can only have a CHeCS bTB Herd Status score used at their first sale; after that they cannot be awarded a score, irrespective of the farm they are being kept on or if they have been on CHeCS holdings at all times.
Can individual animals each have a score?
No. Individual scoring would be too complex. Homebred animals would be awarded your risk score; bought-in animals would fall outside the scheme and would not have a score.
What happens if animals I buy get mixed with other animals on the same lorry?
It is advised you seek to ensure that animals from other sources aren’t on the same lorry.
Will the bTB Herd Status of an animal be affected by being in an auction mart?
No because the status belongs to the herd and not the individual animal.
What about animals being sold in batched lots in the auction ring?
A CHeCS bTB Herd Status Accredited farm would be advised to batch homebred animals together so that they can be sold with the same risk status, as bought-in animals can’t acquire a herd’s risk status at sale. There is also an option to not declare the risk status if preferred.
Could the CHeCS bTB Herd Status of the farm I’m buying from be shown automatically at the mart?
It may be possible in the future if a current plan called the Livestock Hub becomes mainstream. It will aim to collate data from a number of different databases on a daily basis so that disease status and bTB Herd Status among other things can be communicated automatically. Otherwise, you should request the status be declared by the auctioneer.
If my last breakdown has been within the last year, I will have a score of 0. Is it worth declaring that?
It is your choice – a score 0 animal is still a lower risk than unclassified animals. This does not necessarily mean that unclassified animals are going to have or transmit bTB – in fact they may be very low risk for other reasons. It just means that as there is no third-party verification that the farm of origin practices good biosecurity and quarantine measures, they cannot be awarded a lower risk status by CHeCS standards. So a 0 score should provide an advantage.
How do I make sure the score of an animal I buy is correct?
It’s declared by the seller and the seller is required to use the latest certificate he/she has received from his/her Health Scheme, which will declare the correct status. If this is misrepresented, the seller will be in breach of Sales of Goods Act.
Will other bTB data still be notified at sale, as well as this?
Since 2013, the Risk-Based Trading initiative has encouraged sellers to disclose when an animal’s last pre-movement test was carried out, the date of the seller’s last routine herd test and, in the case of herds which have had a bTB breakdown in the past, the date on which it was last declared Officially TB Free. It is anticipated that there may be a demand to provide both types of information while the CHeCS programme becomes more widely known.
Does current Risk Based Trading information and CHeCS give the same information?
As CHeCS bTb Herd Accreditation discounts breakdowns in added animals under CHeCSaccredited quarantine, you may see divergences between CHeCS and Risk-Based Trading information, which declares the last ‘APHA breakdown’. For example a farm with a very low risk status (bTB Herd Status 10, signifying no breakdown within the herd within 10 years) could be recorded by APHA as having had a recent breakdown if that breakdown was in an added animal under quarantine. The CHeCS bTB Herd Accreditation judges risk by breakdowns where the whole herd is compromised, rather than breakdowns where an animal will not have had the opportunity to infect other animals in the herd.