Farmers are needed to take part in veterinary field trials that will test out a new bovine TB vaccine and diagnostic skin test for cattle.
Veterinary firm Eville & Jones will run trials of the CattleBCG vaccine and the companion DIVA (Detecting Infected amongst Vaccinated Animals) skin test.
The Contract Research Organisation (CRO) is now seeking to work with farmers and veterinary practices to support the trials on suitable farms that meet criteria.
The first phase aims to determine the safety and specificity of the DIVA test in TB-free herds in the Low Risk Area of England and the Low TB Incidence Area in Wales.
Phase one of the trial requires between five and ten farms across the UK to participate.
Bovine TB is one of the most complex and difficult animal health challenges facing farmers.
Figures show that in Wales alone, more than 12,000 cattle were slaughtered in 2019 due to bTB.
Scientists say an effective cattle vaccine has the potential to become a powerful tool in the battle against the disease following the necessary testing and safety approvals.
According to initial research conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency's (APHA), CattleBCG produces a spectrum of protection in cattle.
Around one third of animals are fully protected with an absence of lung pathology, one third are partially protected and one third are not protected at all.
Defra Secretary George Eustice spoke about the vaccine last year: “This scientific breakthrough is a major step forwards in our battle to see the disease eradicated from this country.
“As wider preventative measures like cattle vaccines are introduced, we will accelerate other elements of our strategy and start to phase out badger culling, as no one wants to continue the cull of a protected species indefinitely.”
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said the deployment of a viable cattle vaccine used in combination with a validated DIVA test had the 'potential to be a game changer'.
The body's junior vice president, James Russell said: “These field trials mark the culmination of years of ground-breaking research by the veterinary scientific community to expand the range of tools available to vets and farmers to tackle bTB.”
Who can take part in the new field trials?
The following herd criteria needs to be met for farmers interested in taking part in the research project:
• Officially TB Free for 8 years or more
• Not in a current TB hotspot or in a radial or contiguous testing regime
• TB test window of May – October 2021 or willing to undertake an additional private TB test on selected trial animals
• Approximate herd size of 60+ animals
• Availability of the same practice vet to visit the herd every day for two weeks
• Ideally, a closed herd or with minimal purchases (eg, stock bull only)
Those interested in taking part have been told to contact Dr Lindsay Heasman, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.