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ibTB.co.uk: an online system for bovine TB

ibTB was set up to help cattle vets and farmers understand bTB levels in their area and inform purchasing decisions

01 June 2020, at 8:00am

Information bovine TB is a free to use online interactive mapping tool (Figure 1), set up to help cattle farmers and their vets understand the level of bovine TB (bTB) in their area and inform purchasing decisions. The map shows the locations of all bTB breakdowns in England and Wales that started within the past 10 years.

Figure (1) The latest version of ibTB.co.uk (version 2.2) went live on 4 May 2020
Figure (1) The latest version of ibTB.co.uk (version 2.2) went live on 4 May 2020

Prior to its launch in 2015, detailed information on the location of bTB incidents was not available to the farming community. The lack of this type of information was an increasing cause of concern for some stakeholders, who felt that government should be doing more to ensure cattle keepers and their vets had a clear picture of the TB risks in their area. Therefore, both Defra and the Welsh Government (WG) in consultation with the farming industry decided that releasing bTB data would be in the interests of all and integral to their long-term strategies for the eradication of bTB and in line with their open data policy (#OpenDefra).

To enable the sharing of bTB data, both Defra and the WG needed to change legislation (their TB Orders) to allow the publishing of information on bTB affected herds. Once these legislative hurdles were overcome (Defra changed the English TB order in June 2015 and the WG theirs in October 2015), the decision was made to create a bTB mapping system – Defra and WG had seen the benefits of various internal Geographical Information Systems (GIS) already in use. The specification for ibTB was underpinned by certain key principles: a) The data published (covering England and Wales) should be accurate, timely and contain no personal information; b) the system should be simple to use, with good performance; c) the map should be searchable by the farm identifier (County Parish Holding Herd) and postcode; and d) there should be no distinction between the “confirmed” (TB-free status withdrawn) and “unconfirmed” (TB-free status suspended) incidents displayed.

Usage of the system, which was jointly developed by the APHA and the Environmental Research Group Oxford (ERGO), has steadily increased over time and since its inception, the ibTB site has been visited over 195,000 times, with average daily usage now standing at over 200 hits/day. The bTB data that underpins the site is updated every two weeks.

In 2018, the APHA and ERGO development team held a series of meetings with farming groups across England and Wales to better understand their requirements for ibTB and in particular to assess the system’s suitability as a portal for providing knowledge-based trading (KBT) information. As well as confirming that ibTB was an appropriate tool for the display of KBT information, the analysis of feedback identified distinct requirements for several subsets of users, such as farmers in high and low bTB risk areas, vets and TB advisors. These requirements have been distilled into a series of staged system improvements, the first tranche of which were released on 4 May this year. The new version (2.2) features certain improvements requested in the meetings held in late 2018, including to show ongoing and resolved TB breakdowns in England and Wales over the past 10 years instead of five; a page with links to other useful bTB sites; a clearer representation of the extent of a cluster of breakdowns on the map; and an improved help function, including a link to a Defra hosted YouTube video which shows users how to get started with ibTB.

The next upgrade (planned for September 2020) will ensure ibTB conforms to the data accessibility regulations for public sector websites that come into force on the 23 September 2020. A further upgrade, which will add a number of significant new features, is planned for April 2021.

Access to the site can be made either directly from ibTB.co.uk or via the TB hub tbhub.co.uk

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The development team are actively looking for users to help assess the future planned improvements. If you are interested in becoming part of the ibTB user group, please contact the ibTB project team at ibTB-SUPPORT@apha.gov.uk

Andy Mitchell is the workgroup leader for the Data Systems Group, part of the Department of Epidemiological Science at the APHA. Andy has been a guest lecturer at the RVC, lecturing on animal health data systems, and was also a member of the European Food Standards Agency IT working group.

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