A deadly cattle disease is in danger of becoming established in Cumbria.

Experts are warning that farmers need to get a grip on cattle movements if they want to keep bovine TB out of the county.

Figures released by Defra suggest that while the disease isn’t spreading north, outbreaks of the disease are being blamed on bought-in cattle to the county.

The report says although very few cases are reported in cattle north of Cheshire, the risk posed by cattle movements is high, with 400 to 500 live animal movements taking place in Cumbria from other parts of England every month.

But National Farmers’ Union Cumbrian council delegate Alistair Mackintosh said it was easy to say the disease was being brought into the county in the back of a wagon.

“We have to trade,” he insisted. “We have to buy and sell cattle. We need the right information from Defra and we will be in a much stronger place.”

Local farmers are being advised that the M6 corridor is a potential problem when it comes to cattle movements, and they need to be aware of the risks.

“It appears TB hasn’t yet spread northwards into cattle populations beyond Cheshire, although cases in Lancashire and Cumbria have occurred because of bought-in cattle arriving in those counties,” said the Defra report.

Although Cumbria, once classed as bovine TB-free, is regarded as a ‘low-risk’ area, the numbers of premises/farms where a case has resulted in withdrawal of their TB-free status is six so far this year. This compares with four in 2013, and six last year. Currently there are 18 farms under restrictions in the county.

An Animal and Health Plant Agency (APHA) spokesman said: “Cumbria remains a low risk area for bovine TB. Each year there are a small number of TB incidents in the county, typically caused by bought-in cattle.

“Farmers in low-risk areas such as Cumbria are encouraged to make informed choices when buying in cattle to reduce the chances of bringing the disease on to their farms.

“After purchase they are also advised to keep new animals separate from the main herd until they have tested negative for TB, and to consider post-movement testing.”

A consultation on a proposal to amend the Tuberculosis (England) Order 2014 – which would require post-movement testing of cattle in low risk areas – closed last month.

Last year more than 3,000 farms were affected nationally by new occurrences of TB, with each breakdown costing an estimated £20,000 to the taxpayer and more than £10,000 to farmers.

Country, Business and Landowner Association (CLA) Cumbria president and dairy farmer Chris Addison, told a recent meeting in the county that he had had first-hand experience of the disease after a bovine TB breakdown had occurred on a farm close to his, near Appleby.

“Cumbria and Lancashire are formally recognised as low-risk areas yet occasionally the disease presents itself, causing stress, anguish and loss for affected farmers and their neighbours,” he said.

The Government has committed to a 25-year plan to eradicate the disease.

A five-point TB biosecurity plan, and online TB information hub have been launched.

Brampton vet David McCrea, with Capontree Veterinary Practice, said removing confidentiality issues was a good thing for the county.

He said: “We can go online and there is a map which shows the area where the outbreak is. You need nose-to-nose contact for the animal to contract the disease. It is a bacteria.

“You need to be aware if your neighbour has an issue.

“We are in an area where wildlife is not infected, and we want to ensure that we do not bring cattle in that would infect wildlife. Once we have that situation we are in trouble.”