A NEW scheme designed to improve accuracy when testing for bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in camelids has been launched at a Dorset farm.

SureFarm launched the first private Defra approved TB initiative at a farm in Higher Chilfrome, Dorchester.

The scheme has been designed for the camelid industry, which includes alpacas, but it could have the potential to be used on cattle.

Representatives from the camelid industry were invited to watch an on-farm demonstration of the voluntary testing scheme being administered, pictured below.

It uses a serological blood test that is claimed to provide greater accuracy than the current skin test, reducing the risk of false positive diagnoses.

Andy Adler, a director at SureFarm, admitted the test could ‘potentially’ be used for other animals, including cattle, but this is still at the research phase of development.

It would also need to be approved by Defra.

He said: “SureFarm Camelid Diagnostics is a prime example of innovative and progressive veterinarians, working closely with their farming clients to provide a ground breaking science-based solution to the problem of bovine Tuberculosis on farms.”

The Enferplex TB test identifies the presence of antibody to Mycobacterium bovis, the causal agent of bTB.

Individual antigens bind to antibody of bTB. This produces a luminescent reaction.

If two or more antigen spots react, it indicates the animal is infected. At this level, the specificity of the test is estimated at 96.9 per cent.

Clare Whitehead, president of the British Camelid Veterinary Society, said: “Bovine TB is not prevalent in camelids, but the introduction of this new serological blood test will take away the uncertainty of the skin test and provide an opportunity for owners to verify the health of their herds.”

Stuart Drysdale, welfare committee chairman for the British Alpaca Society, said most alpaca owners cared about the health and welfare of their animals.

He said: “This is an ideal opportunity that we have waited for a long time to be able to check up their health.

“I think the test is going to be another tool in judging the risk.”

Di Davies, who owns Alpha Alpacas in Melplash, Bridport, said she would test her show team using the new method.

She said: “It’s only two years since they passed their Defra skin test, which we all know is not very good.

“I will go for it, but slightly nervously. It’s brilliant what they’ve done – the work on it.

“It’s the closest we’ve come to a solution.”