The consequential costs of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) breakdowns in England and Wales

AP Barnes*, Andrew Moxey, Sarah Brockelhurst, AS Barratt*, Iain McKendrick*, Giles Innocent*, Bouda Vosough Ahmadi

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a globally distributed zoonotic disease with significant economic impacts. Control measures in Great Britain include testing for and culling diseased animals. Farmers receive compensation for the value of culled animals, but not for the consequential costs of having to comply with testing and associated control measures. Such uncompensated costs can be significant. We present results of a survey of 1,600 dairy and beef farm holdings conducted in England and Wales to update and improve estimates of these consequential costs.
Estimated costs are positively skewed and show considerable variance, which is in agreement with previous, smaller scale surveys of bTB: most farms experiencing bTB experience modest costs but some suffer significant costs. Testing, movement restrictions and output losses account for over three quarters of total uncompensated costs. Total costs rise with herd size and duration of controls. The composition of consequential costs changes as total costs increase, with an increasing proportion of the costs being associated with output losses and movement restrictions, and a decreasing proportion of costs associated with testing costs. Consequential costs tend to be higher for dairy than beef herds but this is likely due to larger herd sizes for dairy.
Overall we find the farm costs of bTB surpass those compensated for by Government in Great Britain. This study contributes to the public-private cost-sharing debate as farmers bear some of the economic burden of a disease breakdown. The methodology and results presented are crucial for informed government and farmer decision-making. The identification of potential risk factors in this study was challenging but is of relevance outside GB.

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