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.

 

CATTLE, BADGERS, TB AND THE ENVIRONMENT

IMG_20140617_091407Two week ago I visited the Royal Three Counties Show, and what I saw was an amazing display of British livestock. I don’t think you would have found better anywhere in the world. That’s quite a statement! But it’s true. We have a livestock industry that is second to none but in true British style we don’t really like to shout about it……to hell with that! How important is our industry? Very.  If I take my own farm… amongst other things I produce high quality beef to the highest welfare standards. In doing so I help to preserve the wonderful natural environment they graze. It has been done like this for generations and that gives us pasture that is very species rich. It benefits invertebrates, birds and mammals alike but without cattle grazing my Cotswold limestone banks and valleys, where would all this be? Cattle are such an important part of the environment maybe it’s time for the so called “eco warriors” to recognise this and get off the ONE species band waggon, (BADGERS) All animals on my farm are important, farmed and wild alike but those that carry TB need to be controlled for the good of all animals not least my cattle. If I can no longer farm cattle because of TB and I cannot control the wildlife reservoir, the cattle will have to go. That’s a huge blow for the natural environment on this farm and some really important features will be lost for ever. That would be a travesty. As we prepare for our next bTB test on July the 15th we are getting buildings ready and working the grazing rotation to have the cattle as close to home as possible. It can be a difficult challenge getting sucker cows and their calves to cooperate with coming in for bTB test at this time of year. It is the most stressful time on the farm for me, the family and more importantly the cattle. 60 day testing comes round very quickly. As I look around my cattle every day I see the ever increasing evidence of badgers and badger setts. Knowing that in this area over 50% are infected with bTB it’s difficult to keep a positive mind as test day looms ever closer.  I’m hoping for a clear test, desperate for a clear test but it could be a totally devastating test. The inability to be able to control wild animals with Btb is very frustrating and seems to me to be completely at odds with all we do to enhance and protect the environment. All I can hope is that common sense will prevail and difficult decisions will be taken to safe-guard our wildlife, countryside and our very important cattle industry. They are all reliant on each other.

The count down is on.

The count down is on.

We now have a date for our next bTB test. It’s the 15th July. I am really not looking forward to it. It is an unknown. Will I have a clear test? If I don’t, how many reactors? How many more breeding cows /heifers will I loose? I think about it every day especially when I’m checking the cattle. Just now they look so well and so content with huge amounts of spring grass its lovely to be amongst them but the 15th July hangs over all of us.

It has been interesting over the past week or so to have been able to debate the bTB issues first on Radio 4 and also at the Royal Agricultural University Science and Technology debate with non-farmers giving their perceptions and concern’s. It is so important to have a reasoned debate with all sides but this is not always easy with some very extreme views. So much is talked about the “science” and its sometimes conflicting views. I found this piece of information very useful.

It is from the final Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on the RBCT Randomised Badger Culling Trial and concerns on trapping. Trapping was only carried out for an average of 8 days per annum. Of the 15666 traps set 8981 (57%) WERE TAMPERED WITH AND 1827 (12%) WERE STOLEN.

This alone must cast doubt on the trial? The fact that it cost so much money does not mean you get good science. Perhaps we should also look at the previous 5 trials which show big reduction in bTB herd outbreaks after more efficient culling. I don’t think the question should be if culling badgers will reduce bTB in cattle because the evidence is there to show that, but how do we efficiently cull and control the badger population in the areas with the greatest reservoir of bTB in the environment.

I will very soon post some very useful information to help explain this better

cows in pasture bolg

New Latrine

New Badger Latrine ( right fore-ground) in grazing pasture

Today Charlotte Smith and Anna Jones from radio 4 ‘ On Your Farm’ came to our Farm to discuss my reasons for doing the Blog and video and the human side of the effects of  bTB.

It was a great opportunity to discuss the issues I face regarding the ever increasing numbers of badgers on the farm, the difficulties of bio-security and keeping grazing cattle and badgers apart. We walked around the Farm and I was able to show them 2 new setts and most disturbingly a new badger latrine in the field where my  young heifers are grazing.

I then met Gordon McGlone, formally of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, and he was invited to view the video. We had a frank but fair conversation. We had obvious differences but shared some common ground.

The radio programme ‘ On My Farm’ and this interview can be heard this Sunday morning at 6.35am ( ! )

Radio 4 ‘On Your Farm’ comes to our Farm!

Phoenix Rises from the Ashes

I would like to introduce you to Phoenix.

Phoenix

Phoenix

She’s a lovely British Blue cross, heifer calf. She was made an orphan last Tuesday, losing both her mother and her father, Ernie, because of bovine TB. We decided to call her Phoenix for fairly obvious reasons. 

We had a very difficult three or four days with her as she was missing her mother and I didn’t want to share that with you. We’ve had enough sadness recently. But I’m now very happy to say that she has quietened down and settled and will take a (large!) bottle of milk twice a day from us, as well as eating some calf food, soft hay and drinking water. 

Hopefully Phoenix will grow into a wonderful healthy heifer who will become a valued member of our herd for years to come. 

More immediately, we’re now on countdown until our next TB test in July and what news that will bring.