LFU’s & AFU’s – What are they and Why are they needed?

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My name is Sarah Tomlinson and I am a farm vet in Derbyshire. I have been working as a vet for nearly 20 years and have seen TB get steadily worse, creeping across the country into areas that have previously been TB free. There is some glimmer of hope, however.  The South West region – traditionally the worst affected area of England – is now showing a fourth year of decline. This decline reflects the efforts from farmers, vets and APHA to control this devastating disease using all the tools in the box.

In 2013 the country, as part of the 25 year government strategy, split England into the High Risk Area (HRA) the Edge Area (EA) and the Low Risk Area (LRA). This was to allow different TB control strategies to be put in place to tackle the differing levels of disease in the most appropriate way for the different regions. An example of this is pre and post movement testing. Cattle coming out of the HRA and EA are “higher” risk cattle to move so must have a pre movement test before moving anywhere. Post movement testing is only carried out in the LRA, to protect its low risk status from these riskier moves from the HRA or EA.

The government does recognise the need for farms to keep trading and the recent Godfray Review (A government commissioned review of the first 5 years of the 25 year strategy) recognised the movement of cattle from the SW and Midlands into the Northern and Eastern counties for finishing was an established part of the cattle industry. They also recognise this is a potential route for TB to keep spreading North and East. To help protect the LRA status, one government policy is the approval of Licenced Finishing Units (LFUs).

Licenced Finishing Units

An LFU is a unit that is ultimately badger and cattle proof for the rearing or finishing of cattle which go directly to slaughter. The set up of the unit is such that there is minimal risk from TB to the surrounding cattle herds and wildlife. There are strict biosecurity protocols that must be adhered to such as keeping feed in badger proof stores, and muck must be heaped either within the unit or in badger and cattle proof areas for a specific period of time before spreading.

These units can buy cattle from anywhere in the UK, they must be premovement tested if coming from the HRA or EA and they CANNOT come off TB restricted units.

The benefit of these units to a business is that there is no statutory TB testing: no post movement testing, no tracer testing and no routine herd testing. If an LFU is getting repeated slaughterhouse cases, APHA may request a herd test, but normally a slaughterhouse case would not trigger a check test.

The other bonus of the LFU is that a slaughterhouse case wouldn’t trigger radial testing for the neighbouring cattle holdings. This is a recognition by APHA that these units pose very little risk to the surrounding cattle and susceptible wildlife due to the enhanced biosecurity required for the licencing of the unit.

In the HRA and EA very different units are licenced to allow cattle to move off TB restricted farms these are called Approved Finishing Units or AFUs.

Approved Finishing Units

AFUs are ONLY licenced in the HRA and EA. These units can be licenced in the HRA with grazing- but only where we know there is endemic disease in the wildlife, primarily the badgers. In areas where badgers have been culled for 2 years, the grazing AFUS have their licences revoked as we do not want to put the effort put into badger control put at risk from grazing risky cattle.

AFUs are cattle and wildlife secure units and can take clear-tested cattle from TB restricted herds, cattle from another AFU, a red or orange market or cattle that have not been pre movement tested.

There is no requirement to carry out statutory testing in non- grazing AFUs: No whole herd tests, no tracer testing and a slaughterhouse case ordinarily will not trigger a check test. Grazing AFUs do have to TB test every 90 days.

AFUs do not trigger contiguous testing in the HRA or radial testing in those parts of the EA on annual testing, even if a slaughterhouse case of TB is found.

If you know of beef units that would be interested in becoming an AFU they can contact the TB Advisory Service for more information and use their free visit to look at the conditions required for an AFU and what recommendations we can give to help with the application process.

AFU that rears black and white bull calves from less than 42 days through to slaughter
AFU that finishes continental cross suckled calves


Licenced Finishing Unit (LFU) Approved Finishing Unit (AFU)
Only licenced in the Low Risk Area Only licenced in the High Risk and Edge Areas
No Grazing Grazing licences permitted in some parts of the HRA
Can only source from TB FREE herds in the UK Can source from TB Free and TB RESTRICTED Herds (also other AFUs, Red and Orange Markets)
Must Pre-Movement test if coming from the HRA or EA No requirement to Pre-Movement test
No routine herd testing No whole herd testing
No tracer testing No tracer testing
No post movement testing Grazing AFUs have to TB test every 90d
Slaughterhouse case does not routinely trigger a check test Slaughterhouse case does not routinely trigger a check test
TB reactor does not trigger radial testing for neighbouring cattle herds TB reactor does not trigger contiguous or radial testing for neighbouring cattle herds


Article written by  Sarah Tomlinson BVM&S MRCVS

Member of the TB Eradication and Advisory Group for England

TB Advisory Service Technical Board Director

BCVA Johnes accredited advisor

BCVA BVD accredited advisor


For further information on this subject or anything TB related please get in contact with us or see the below links to the TB hub website –