From next month, Government’s Veterinary Services Department will be embarking on an island-wide survey of cattle to determine the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis (TB) and brucellosis, two diseases with potential health risks for humans.

According to Senior Veterinary Officer, Dr. Mark Trotman, “we are quite confident that the prevalence of these diseases is very low to absent and the survey will allow us to quantify this. It will also allow the public to have full confidence that locally produced milk and beef products are safe and that there is no risk of contracting either disease by consuming them”.  

He assured that the risk of contracting bovine TB or brucellosis from consuming commercially available milk was extremely low, “since the majority of milk consumed is pasteurised”.

Dr. Trotman warned, however, that there was some minor trade in unpasteurised milk and this would present a risk to consumers, not only from TB and brucellosis, but other illnesses as well.

Both diseases are caused by the pressure of bacteria. TB is caused by Mycobacterium bovis and brucellosis by Brucella abortus.

Dr. Trotman explained that these two diseases could have a serious economic impact on farming, hence the need to undertake a survey at this time. He revealed that the last outbreak of bovine TB in Barbados was in 1977, and since the last study in the 1980’s there had been no cases found.   

Economic losses could occur through the death of infected animals, poor growth rate of young animals, poor milk yields and losses incurred by the disposal of milk from infected animals.  Losses could also come through aborted foetuses and the condemnation of carcasses at slaughter.

The Senior Veterinary Officer further disclosed that, during the investigation, two tests – a Tuberculin Test and a Brucellosis Test – would be carried out by personnel authorised by the Veterinary Services Department.  For the first test, “a small amount of tuberculin is injected into the skin of the animal.  A positive reaction causes a localised allergic reaction or swelling to appear three days after the injection,” he indicated.

The second test (Brucellosis) is done simultaneously with the first test.  “A small quantity of blood will be taken from each cow and submitted to the laboratory for testing to detect brucellosis,’’ Dr. Trotman explained. 

Cattle owners are asked to contact the Veterinary Services Department at the Pine, St. Michael, by calling 427-5073 or 427-5492 or by emailing so that they may be registered to take part in the survey.  There is no cost for participating.

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