A CASE of Bovine TB has been found in the New Forest, leading to fears the disease could quickly spread among the free-ranging cattle.

The cow, which was roaming in the Longdown area, was taken to slaughter in January, when TB was found in its bloodstream.

The Verderers were informed of the case by the Animal Health Veterinary laboratories Agency (AHVLA) on January 23, who then advised commoners not to move cattle in or out of the area.

Chairman of the Commoners’ Defence Association Grahame Ferris said: "This is a concern.

“We recognise that Bovine TB is a very serious animal health issue which causes major losses to farmers, particularly in the south and south west of England.

"We have been fortunate in the forest, with very few outbreaks. When there has been an outbreak it has been rapidly controlled and we trust that this will happen this time as well.

"We expect all our members will fully co-operate with the advice given."

Fordingbridge resident Jay Andrews said: "This has serious implications for the forest and especially for neighbouring farmers.

“Anywhere else a farmer with a TB cow would be shut down for 60 days on his property to prevent further spread.

"The Verderers simply suggest commoners are careful in the Longdown area.

“One of the problems is that there are a lot more cattle out on the forest because of rural payment incentives and many commoners have nowhere to keep or feed them if they can't roam the forest as there is no back-up grazing.

"This could mirror the disaster of foot and mouth, when hundreds of cattle were slaughtered because commoners had no back-up grazing, though they profited from the slaughter.

"Nearby farmers who don't benefit from the forest leeway will be aghast that the whole of the New Forest could be live and unrestricted by normal TB restrictions. They could face disaster if TB spreads to neighbouring herds because the commoners have different laws applied."

Clerk to the Verderers Sue Westwood said: "We were notified by the AHVLA that there was a cow that went to slaughter in January which was carrying TB.

"We have informed our commoners that there was a case of TB in the forest in the Longdown area. At the moment the advice to our commoners is not to move cattle in or out of the Longdown Forest area.

"Cases of TB in the Forest are very rare so when there is a case there of course is concern, but there is no concern to the public."