WHY IS THE BADGER CULL NECESSARY TO PROTECT OUR CATTLE, OUR COUNTRYSIDE AND OURSELVES?

1. In the early 1900s, 2,500 people died each year from bovine TB (bTB) and a further 50,000 were infected. This is why a control programme was instigated.

2. Trials of cattle vaccination in the 1950s (involving 6,000 calves over ten years, with a booster dose at six months) failed to remove the disease, so the government introduced a test and cull policy to eradicate the disease in cattle and to reduce the risk to human health.

3. Using the same TB skin test for cattle as we do today, by the mid 1970s – when UK cattle numbers were at an all-time high – the number of cases of bTB had been cut to just 400 a year. Since then, cattle numbers have fallen by 32% but bTB cases in cattle have risen to well over 30,000 a year. This is despite far more intensive controls (such as premovement testing and whole-herd restrictions following inconclusive reactor disclosure).

4. The graph below the relationship between the number of TB reactors in cattle and various badger culling programs. There is clearly a direct link: when badgers were gassed on farms from the late 1970s, we saw the lowest bTB figures ever. From that point on, the clean ring and reactive programs took place and were less effective at removing badgers. Badgers became protected in 1981 but it was not until 1997 that all badger culling ceased. Note the huge increase in bTB cases in the years after this.

Apologies will copy graph ASAP have techno glitch

5. There is no doubt that bTB has decreased in Wales recently. However, as the current vaccination program is being conducted only in 1% of the country it is difficult to see how this has led to a 25% decrease in bTB overall. Other factors must be at play.

6. There have been no field trials involving the vaccination of badgers. Experimentally, badger vaccination has no effect in animals already infected and, when challenged with infection, all uninfected vaccinated badgers eventually succumb to bTB, although the vaccine does slow down the onset and progression of the disease.

7. On the Killerton Estate in North Devon, where the National Trust has vaccinated badgers over the past four years at an annual cost of £45,000, there have recently been a significant number of herd breakdowns.

8. It is true that Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) (‘Krebs’) concluded that culling badgers in small areas would make ‘no meaningful contribution’ to bTB control. However, a subsequent committee chaired by Professor John King, the Chief Scientist at the time, recalculated the same data and showed that in the four years after the 2000 cull had ended, bTB decreased considerably in culled areas, and it was his opinion that removing the wildlife reservoir would decrease cattle cases by at least 40%.

9. According to the Krebs report, the number of badgers culled in the Gloucester proactive triplet varied from 93 to 219 per annum, despite intensive Defra staffing and training. This is a mean of 165 badgers per annum per 100 sq km. Despite huge protester disruption, Gloscon has done much better than that. In 2013, 914 badgers were culled in 330 sq km, which equates to 277 badgers per 100 sq km. Your contractors have done a superb job.

10. The Krebs report also shows that in the Gloucester area total badger density was 2.61 badgers per sq km or 261 per 100 sq km, so in 2013 when Gloscon removed 277 per sq km it removed more than the total number present at the time of Krebs. Numbers culled in 2014 therefore will be much lower than in 2013.

11. The rates of bTB infection in badgers killed on the road tested during the Krebs trial (2002–05) varied from 19% to 26% infected year on year. Of these, 38% of adult badgers and 55% of cubs showed visible lesions, and 10% of adults and 23% of cubs showed severe lesions.

12. More recent data (2006–09) from the Gloucestershire Badger Vaccine Deployment Project, where blood tests were used to confirm infection in badgers, demonstrated an infection rate varying from 28% to 54% year on year. Therefore, in our opinion the evidence for badgers being a reservoir of infection is incontrovertible.

13. Cheshire is defined by Defra as an ‘edge area’ with a comparatively low incidence of bTB, deemed to be suitable for control by badger vaccination only. However, a recent survey in the county showed that 24% of badgers killed on the road were bTB positive. This means that vaccination will not be effective in at least 24% of the animals vaccinated here.

14. The effect of perturbation was studied during the Krebs trial, where there was evidence of the effect only in a 2 km wide band around the outside of the proactive cull areas. Even in these areas, for four years after the Krebs trial ended the level of bTB in these bands was actually lower than before the trial started.

If anyone would like further information on the subject, please visit the NFU TB Free England website at http://www.tbfreeengland.co.uk.

October 2014

Test reading, very disappointing

Cattle coming in for testing
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Friday October 10th another early start, the cows and calves much more reluctant to come in to the yards for testing, however we managed to entice them with some nice silage.
The vet arrives and within 5 minutes he has found a reactor, a home bread 2nd calver with her fresh autumn borne calf at foot, optimism disappeared immediately replaced by despair then 2 inconclusive reactors followed by another reactor . The mood is tense and we continue with the test, a relief when my favourite cow passes ok and our young stock bull Dude also.
As our spring calving cows come though the crush for testing we also PD (pregnancy diagnose) them , that at least is good news all but 2 in calf and the vet tells me we have a very tight calving pattern which is good. This comes about by being efficient and a close attention to detail, sadly and most disappointingly bTB has ripped all that good work apart again. Loosing breading cows that are in calf or suckling young calves is morally emotionally and financially taking its toll on all of us here.
We must put a stop to this terrible disease, that’s why it’s so important for the pilot culls to continue and have further roll out where the disease is endemic, not just for our cattle but the countryside and wildlife which live in it, I have huge respect and admiration for the farmers and contractors in Glos and Somerset where the cull is taking place, it’s difficult but vital work that has to be done.
We will be bTB testing again before Christmas and after, and who knows when we are clear again.

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One of the condemned

Roulette wheel is spinning

Tuesday 7th OCT, 5.45 AM start strong coffee and paracetamol, one hell of a headache .bTB testing again. My biggest worry right now is making sure I can get all my cattle collected and penned ready for the vet , not to test all cattle would void the test altogether .
I am happy to say all the cattle came in quietly with out to much fuss .With a new crush and handling system I was somewhat anxious as to how it would work , it worked well , better animal welfare and personnel welfare. First part of the test completed by lunchtime. No sooner had we finished testing we had a heifer calve all well, but this is not a good time to be testing with now 17 fresh calves around. I would not choose to test while we are calving but with 60 day testing we have no choice
We now wait for results on Friday , it’s like playing roulette we have no idea of the outcome seems as if it’s just down to chance, it’s always a very tense 3 days

60 Day Btb Test is here Again

We have spent the last two days getting cattle back to the farm for testing again, and preparing for tomorrow 7th Oct.
I can’t tell you how this effects the whole family such a stressful time, and we will be doing it all again before Christmas. The difference between having a clear test on Friday or more reactors is so profound to the wellbeing of the herd and our business.
It’s so easy for people who don’t have to test cattle to say “more testing more stringent cattle measures” etc. . I do see the need to do all this and am happy to do so, providing we deal with the source of infection in wildlife (Badgers) I think it’s time to be more realistic about what needs to be done with wildlife , to ensure we have a healthy living working countryside free from bTB
Will post results on Friday

Harvest safely gathered in but TB concerns continue

IMG_20140819_141644It’s been a month since I last posted a blog as its been a very busy time on the farm with harvest and other things. The harvest is now safely in the barn thank goodness.
As it’s now autumn, I assume the pilot badger culls will start sometime soon. It is so important they continue and that the contractors are allowed to carry out their work unhindered which I believe is done in the most professional way. I visited the cull area in Gloucestershire last year and saw first-hand how professional and well organised the contractors were with the greatest attention to detail employed. It was disappointing and frustrating that they were repeatedly faced with intimidation and harassment from some of the protesters.
The contractors are people employed to carry out a Government policy to help wipe out a disease that is devastating livestock and dairy farmers in the county. Let’s see what the results are after the four years have been completed. There will be no need for mathematical modelling or scientific reports to be pulled apart. I am not afraid of the result, and we must put things in to perspective. – It is estimated up to 5,000 badgers may be culled over the four year period. Let us not forget that last year alone 32,000 cattle were culled for bTB. Let’s fight for the rights of our cattle and our Great British Beef and Dairy industry. Surely we must do everything we can to stop the reinfection of our cattle from wildlife and, in so doing, rid the countryside of this dreadful disease .I believe the right to peaceful protest is very important. Let’s make sure any protests this year are peaceful and lawful.
I think it is important to clarify the issue of the independent expert panel to the General Public. The message getting out there is that the IEP won’t be overseeing the cull this year. This is correct, but lessons learnt from last year will be implemented and DEFRA and Natural England will be overseeing and monitoring the culls. My experience with both DEFRA and Natural England is they are more than capable and will do a very thorough job in a very professional way as you would expect. It is quite frankly ridicules to suggest any different………….
Our next bTB test is not so far away now and we are planning again for the whole herd test. I will need two clear tests before I can have restrictions lifted on my farm and be able to sell and market my store cattle. It has a crippling effect on my business. I saw on TV last week how young farmers are having to cope with bTB breakdowns. It’s so hard for them and it just strengthens my resolve that we must now get this dreadful disease under control without delay
We need an independent body to run the bTB policy in the UK – to work in partnership with farmers and government to move us forward to being bTB free. It is essential now. Doing nothing or keeping the status quo is simply not an option. There is simply too much at stake. We must all work towards a healthy living working countryside.
I wish everyone involved in the cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset well in their courageous and determined fight to help start making England bTB free.

South West TB Farm Advisory Service Report.

This is the report from South West TB Farm Advisory Service carried out recently. I think it is really important to continuingly look at what we can do on farm to reduce the risk of bTB spreading to cattle

. My hands are tied to control the source of infection in wildlife (Badgers) so all I can do with Biosecurity I must, in the desperate hope that I can continue breeding and finishing cattle at ManorFarm.

I have not included the map from the survey for security reasons. It shows : 5 ACTIVE SETTS 3 INACTIVE SETTS AND 5 LATRINES (OVER 260 ACRES).There are more but because cereals have not been harvested and HLS margins are waste high it is not possible to see all activity.

Many thanks to Sophie James for a first class service from South West TB Farm Advisory Service.
Recommendations for Manor Farm.
1. Biosecurity at Pasture
1.1 – Badger Activity
The survey found a relatively high level of badger activity at Manor Farm, including setts, latrines, runs and rooting – please see survey map attached. There was some level of activity in every area of the farm. Not all activity will have been identified as the farm is in Higher Level Stewardship and extensively grazed, with areas including buffer strips concealing badger activity. This can also make implementing biosecurity at pasture more difficult, in terms of fencing areas of potential infection, including latrines. I would advise remaining vigilant for areas of activity. There was only one area of rooting, this is to be expected with such dry weather.
1.2 – Setts/Latrines
Three of the badger setts (S 1/3, S 0/4, S 0/3 – inactive) were found to encroach on potential grazing grounds. I do not believe that S 1/3 is in regular use but due to the close proximity of the road sett and other activity, I would consider fencing cattle away from this. I would recommend fencing cattle away from the other setts, should they be re-opened and I would advise remaining vigilant for this if grazing these fields. There were a number of latrines identified on the survey but given the number of active setts, there will be more that have not been identified. This is to be expected, as discussed above. Only one latrine was found on grazing ground (L 4/4). I would recommend fencing cattle away from badger latrines if identified in grazing fields, or avoid mowing over if silaging, as they can be potential sources of infection.
1.3 – Feeding
Mineral blocks can be particularly attractive to badgers and are currently fed at pasture, although away from areas of known activity – although as discussed, this is difficult given the level of badger activity on the farm. I would urge you to use mineral lick holders, which should raise the mineral blocks to at least 90 cm from the ground to prevent badger access. There are several mineral lick holders now available to buy, or other farmers have created their own using scrap materials – as previously discussed.
Supplementary feed is occassionally fed at grazing depending on different factors. This is given in raised troughs which should limit the potential for badger access. The only further measure would be to add rollers to the troughs which again, makes access more difficult for the badgers. I would remain vigilant for signs that badgers have been accessing troughs when in use, for example scratch marks and prints. There is a calf creep feeder at pasture, which is rarely used and may not be used in future. The only way to completely secure calf creep feeders in my experience, is to add a lid which can be closed at night to prevent badger access.
There was no evidence of badgers using the limited number of water troughs at Manor Farm. This is unsurprising given the availability of natural water sources. I would still recommend remaining vigilant for scratches or badger footprints on or around water troughs. It is good practice to cleanse and disinfect troughs regularly if using them for cattle.
1.4 – Cattle to cattle
There is no opportunity for nose to nose contact with cattle from neighbouring herds.
2. Biosecurity for Farm Buildings
2.1 Badger Activity
As stated above, there was some level of badger activity in every area of the farm, including close to the different farm buildings. I would advise having cameras to monitor the buildings when cattle are housed and to consider biosecurity measures that could be implemented, as discussed.

Counting down again

Having had one reactor at last week’s TB test we’re now facing a minimum of two further 60-day TB tests and the countdown is on again. The test was the first one we’d had since our six-month check test where we lost three cows and our dear old bull Ernie.

Every TB test is hard work and is incredibly stressful. Getting the cattle in and making sure they all safely go through the crush is very physically demanding work. I had a good team of people working with me on the latest test which made things easier but no matter how smoothly things run you’re still very nervous waiting for the results.

Although we had one reactor I have to be positive and look at the overall result of the test as a good one because I wasn’t sure how many animals I was going to lose. You try to remain optimistic but, having lost up to 30 cattle in a test before, you are never certain. Losing any cow you’ve bred and raised is sad but the test result does mean I can continue with the business in its current form.

Now it’s time to get back to doing the rest of the day-to-day work on the farm as summer rolls on. But the thought of the next test will always be at the back of my mind.

NOT Btb FREE

After a very stressful week, the result is not as bad as it could have been we had 1 reactor a young cow 2nd calver 4 years old. A minimum of two further 60 day test required now.
I have to be positive and look at this as a good result because we could have lost 10, 20 or even 30 as we have in the past so 1 reactor sad as it is at least leaves me with a business I can continue with.
I am now even more determined to continue the fight to see a fair and just policy on Btb in the UK with “all the tools in the box” being used.
Without wildlife control we will never beat this terrible disease, I have had an independent farm wildlife survey done this last week and will report its findings as soon as I receive it.
Many thanks for all the kind support I have had especially in the last week much appreciated.
David Barton TB Test  Still002

TB TEST DAY IS NEARLY HERE

BLOG PICTURESNext week the day I’ve been dreading for the last two months will finally arrive – my next TB test.

I’ve been trying not to think about it too much but, if I’m honest, it’s never been far from my thoughts since the last one, 60 days ago.

The cows are currently all out in the fields, enjoying the sunny weather and the glorious grass. They look great and it lifts my spirits when I see them out there roaming freely. Phoenix, the calf who lost her mother after our last test, has come on in leaps and bounds in the last two months. She’ll be tested next week as well.

On Tuesday I’ll have to round all 160 of the cows up and bring them back into the yard so they can be injected – the first part of the test. Then on Friday I’ll have to bring them all in again so we can find out the results of the test. This will be the crucial day – the day we find out if we’ve had a clear test or if we’re going to lose more cows to TB.

Getting all the animals back in twice in three days is a huge task. They want to be out in the fields at this time of year and I want them to be out there because it means I can focus on other parts of the business. Instead, all my time and effort will be focused on getting them in. Getting them all through the crush so they can be injected takes a lot of time and physical effort. So you can imagine what it’s like having to do it all again three days late to get the test results.

On top of all the physical effort there’s also the stress of not knowing what the test will bring. Will we be clear? If so, it will be a huge relief but we’ll still have to have another clear test in 60 days’ time before we can get back to normal. Will we have more reactors? And, if we do, how many will there be? Another positive test could mean having to face some difficult questions about the future direction of the business.

Breeding cattle has always been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of what I do. But if I keep losing cattle to TB because I can’t stop the disease getting on to my farm then I’ll have to give up that side of the business because it won’t be financially viable to carry on with it.

Obviously I’m hoping that it doesn’t come to that. I’m doing my best to stay positive but the relentless nature of TB makes it increasingly harder as each test approaches.

The feeling of deja-vu is almost overwhelming. We’ve been here so many times before. Fingers crossed next week’s test will give me the result I want rather than the one I fear.

Encouraging the debate about bovine TB

As people who read my blog will know, one of the reasons I started writing it was to restart the debate about the need to tackle bovine TB and generate a discussion about all aspects of controlling the disease, not just culling badgers.

 

Gloucestershire has found itself at the centre of the debate during the last 18 months or so, for obvious reasons. I know bovine TB is a very emotive issue and that there are strong feelings on both sides of the debate about how it should be tackled. But sometimes I feel that the story of how TB impacts on farmers and their families has been marginalised in the media coverage when it should be one of the central elements of the whole issue.

 

Last week I posted a letter to every member of Gloucestershire County Council along with a copy of the film the NFU made on my farm following my last TB test. I didn’t do this to be confrontational, or to shock or offend – I did it simply to introduce myself and to give them the opportunity to see what living with TB is like for me and my family.

 

I hope the councillors will take the time to read my letter and watch the film. I’m happy to answer any questions any of them might have about TB, its impact, and the best way to tackle it in the area where I farm. I’m also happy to show them around my farm and let them see the practical difficulties TB presents – not just regarding the daily running of the farm, but also the impossibility of keeping cattle and badgers completely separate when the cattle are outside.

 

My next TB test is due to take place on July 15. I’ll find out the results on July 18. I have no idea what the test will bring. And at the moment I’m trying to go about my everyday farming business without thinking about it too much,that’s easier than done

If the test is clear it means we’ll still have to have another clear test in 60 days’ time before the farm can get back to operating normally. If we lose more animals I’ll have to seriously think about whether I can carry on breeding cattle – which is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of my farming life.

 

The cows look great out in the fields in the sunny summer weather. They look fit, healthy and full of life. I don’t want to think about the test yet. But pretty soon I’m going to have to, whether I want to or not.