Farmers throughout the south west can now have free advice on bovine TB as well as vet visits.

The service is open to farmers across England regardless of a farmer's risk status following the awarding of a new contract.

The changes mean even more farmers can receive the tools and know-how to assess what can be controlled on-farm to reduce the risk and length of a TB breakdown.

Defra granted the TB Advisory Service (TBAS) Successor Contract to Farmcare Solutions, an entirely vet-led team.

The joint venture company is made up of VetPartners, Independent Vet Care (IVC), UK Farmcare and Obligace.

The new contract introduces some fundamental changes to TBAS including:

• Being available to any farm in England that keeps livestock susceptible to TB, not just those in high risk and edge areas.

• Being available to keepers of not just cattle but farmed sheep, pigs, deer and camelids.

• An increase in the number of free visits. Now an initial visit will be carried out by a veterinary surgeon and a second follow up visit six months later (both are free to the farmer). Previously a highly skilled independent non- veterinary TBAS advisor and a private veterinary surgeon would carry out just one visit.

• All farmers who have already accessed the service will be eligible for the new funding.

Sarah Tomlinson, technical director at TBAS said: “The expansion to TBAS means we can help farmers do everything within their power to prevent the spread of TB into previously unaffected locations.

“At VetPartners we witness the devastation caused by TB first-hand, both for farm businesses and the mental health of people affected by an outbreak. This is why it’s crucial for farmers to get independent veterinary advice, bespoke to their farm, free of charge.”

Mrs Tomlinson explains that pigs, sheep, goats, deer and camelids can all be infected with TB, so it makes complete sense to extend the service to all livestock sectors, giving farmers more control over TB through simple cost-effective changes to farm biosecurity measures.

To use the service, farmers can call TBAS on 01306 779410 or email TBAS offers over-the-phone advice on how to stop infected livestock coming on-farm, reduce the risk from other livestock, minimise infection from manure and restrict contact between badgers and livestock by managing access to feed and water.

The main part of the service offers free farm visits, in which a TBAS-trained vet comes out to the farm to provide tailored advice focused on TB biosecurity and how to reduce the impact reactors can have on a farm business.

“A visit from a TBAS advisor, who is often a vet from their local practice, can provide reassurance for a farmer who may be worried about the risk of TB to their farm.

"Working together with a TBAS advisor will help them to understand what they can control on-farm to reduce risk of disease or the impact of an outbreak,” said Mrs Tomlinson.

To deliver the extended nationwide support, Farmcare Solutions will draw on the existing network of vets who are trained to offer bespoke advice on biosecurity measures to reduce the spread of TB and will also upskill additional vets in areas where more TBAS-trained vets are needed.