By Debbie James

Farmers in Pembrokeshire are being warned to expect some delays to their bovine TB testing programmes during the coronavirus outbreak and that pause could result in cattle movement restrictions in healthy herds.

The Welsh Government says the need for farm visits will “continually be reviewed’’ as the situation develops.

As the virus spreads and more farmers and vets either contract Covid-19 or self-isolate, delays to some tests may be unavoidable.

Farms that don’t complete TB tests in their defined testing window will be placed under movement restriction and their officially TB-free (OTF) status will be withdrawn.

Pembrokeshire together with Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion are classed as high risk TB areas in the government’s TB eradication strategy.

“In a time of public health emergency, it is essential that we do not allow other diseases that affect people or animals to get out of control,’’ said a Welsh Government spokesperson.

“Any outbreak can have a devastating effect on industry, rural communities and the economy of Wales.’’

With some vet practices not having enough staff to carry out the tests following school closures and official veterinarians needing to self-isolate, this could impact more widely on farms in the coming weeks.

The AHPA is advising practices to “make the best decisions you can under the circumstances’’ to enable as much of the testing to be carried out as possible.

It gave an assurance that farmers won’t lose a portion of their basic payment scheme (BPS) support through cross compliance penalties, if “all reasonable endeavours’’ are made to complete the test within the specified window and that there are genuine mitigating circumstances.

And neither will there be a reduction in compensation paid for any cows that test as reactors when the overdue test is eventually completed.

“It is recognised that each situation will be different and while most will be resolved by sensible discussion between the official veterinarian and the owner/keeper there are likely to be cases that are more difficult to resolve and advice should be sort from senior staff in APHA or veterinary delivery partners,’’ the APHA said.

To protect farmers, staff and vets during the coronavirus crisis, AHPA has issued guidance:

• Vets should have no face-to-face contact with farmers or farm workers who have self-declared symptoms of Covid-19 within the previous seven days.

• The validity of a farmer’s self-declaration of having symptoms of Covid-19 or needing to self-isolate should not be challenged.

• There should be no pressure applied to farmers who are self-isolating because they are in high risk groups to meet OVs face-to-face – but if they are willing to meet then these meetings should not be discouraged.

• If access is difficult the vet and farmer should try to find an ‘acceptable’ solution to enable the test to go ahead – this might include the wearing of face masks.