Alternative control herds

Alternative Control Herds (ACHs) are specialist non grazing herds which have adopted significantly enhanced biosecurity measures to allow minimised testing requirements. Cattle can leave ACH premises only when they are going directly to slaughter in Northern Ireland.

Biosecurity measures required to operate an ACH

  • an ACH must be a non grazing herd kept on a single “ACH premises
  • only cattle in the ACH can be kept on the ACH premises
  • the premises must be constructed and operated to continuously prevent contact between cattle in the ACH and other TB susceptible livestock (cattle and sheep)
  • the premises must be constructed and operated to continuously exclude badgers and deer
  • all vehicles and shared equipment must be cleansed and disinfected with an approved disinfectant before leaving the ACH premises
  • people working on the ACH premises must wear clothing solely for use on the ACH premises
  • visitors must be kept to a minimum and effort made to restrict access. Clothing solely for use on the ACH premises must be worn
  • animals can move from the ACH only direct to slaughter in NI
  • any calves born in the ACH cannot be moved to another herd
  • slurry must be managed to reduce the risk it could spread TB to neighbouring cattle herds or badgers/deer. Slurry can only be disposed of by one of the following methods:
  • decontamination with Thick Lime Milk before it leaves the ACH premises
  • batch storage for 6 months within the ACH premises before spreading
  • direct injection into land which is not grazed for the following 12 weeks
  • spread onto land using the “trailing shoe” method then ploughed in the same day
  • manure and used bedding must be stacked within the ACH premises for 2 months before spreading on land that will not be grazed for a minimum of 12 weeks.

Disease Controls

The enhanced biosecurity measures mean that TB testing in these herds is minimised to the extent that none is required (apart from in exceptional circumstances). Instead of testing and removing TB reactor animals, the ACH is managed as an infected herd and strict biosecurity measures prevent the spread of TB to other herds.


The biosecurity measures listed above must be in place before a herd can be given ACH status. A Veterinary Officer will inspect the premises and the applicant is required to demonstrate how the risk of TB spread will be prevented. This forms an “ACH Protocol”, which is unique to this herd and must be formally agreed before the herd is given ACH status. The ACH must be re-approved within 12 months.

Further information about the application process, conditions of operation and an application form can be found at the links below. Please read all of this information carefully before submitting an application form. The biosecurity standards required to operate an ACH are strict and approval will be refused if these are not met.


The ACH will be audited at least 4 times per year and some visits will be unannounced. The construction and operation of the premises and recording of movements / cleansing and disinfection etc will be compared with the agreed “ACH Protocol”. A minor breach will result in a warning letter and increase in audit visits. A major breach (e.g. ACH cattle found outside the badger/deer proof area) or 3 minor breaches within a 12 month approval period, will result in the immediate removal of ACH status.

Movements into the ACH

Cattle can be moved into the ACH from TB free herds using standard MC2 movement documents.

Moves from TB breakdown herds will be considered by DAERA on a case by case basis, and will be permitted where the move will resolve a potential animal welfare problem or human hardship at the breakdown herd. Moves from TB breakdown herds will require approval of the local Divisional Veterinary Officer and an MC2L movement licence. Individually restricted animals will not be permitted to move.

If you are currently affected by TB restrictions and would like to discuss the movement of animals from your herd to an ACH, please contact your local Divisional Veterinary Office.

Exit from ACH requirements

If an ACH operator chooses to no longer run an ACH, or if DAERA remove ACH status due to breach of the “ACH Protocol”, the herd will be managed as a confirmed TB breakdown. An immediate skin test followed by 2 further clear tests after 60 and 120 days, and a cleansing and disinfection of the premises will be required before regaining Officially TB Free status.

The ACH application process

If you believe you will be able to meet the ACH Conditions of Operation please complete the ACH Application Form and send this and a premises plan to Veterinary Service at your local DAERA Direct office.

A Veterinary Officer (VO) trained in approving Alternative Control Herds will make contact with you to discuss the application.

The VO will arrange to visit you to assess the suitability of your premises. At this visit you will be asked to demonstrate how you can meet the ACH Conditions of Operation. You will be required to record this on an ACH Protocol Form, which is unique to your farm. If the premises and/or your plans for recording biosecurity measures are not fully satisfactory you will be advised what measures are required before approval can be granted. Further approval visit(s) may be needed before the application can progress.

The VO will report to the local Divisional Veterinary Officer (DVO), who decides if the ACH Conditions of Operation have been met. (If the DVO is not satisfied you will be informed of the reasons why approval cannot be granted, and what further work is required to meet the required standards).

If the DVO is satisfied you will be required to sign the ACH Protocol Form.

The VO who carried out the approval visit and the DVO will countersign the ACH Protocol Form and allocate a TB status of OTW, with a status reason of Alternative Control Herd to your Herd number. (If a new herd number has been requested the new herd number will be given OTW – Alternative Control Herd status and status reason.)

You will be contacted by telephone once this has been done. From that time you will be expected to operate your herd according to the ACH Protocol Form and the ACH Conditions of Operation document.

Your copy of the ACH Protocol Form will be sent to you by post.

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