Excellent result today, clear 6 month check test today. Very happy farmer.
We are fortunate to have been #tbfree since January.
Having the spring and early summer free from TB testing has been a huge relief for all of us. The cows and there spring born calves look extremely well as do the store cattle and bulling heifers.
Back in the spring we noticed more badger activity than usual on the farm. By this I mean we have noticed more routing of the permanent pasture by badgers looking for earth worms etc. A new latrine and more activity at some of the satellite setts which are not always used in some years. This does not mean we have more badgers than before but it may do, it’s very difficult to estimate badgers numbers. All we know is there has been more activity this year.
We are TB testing the last week of July for our 6 month check test. Summer testing is very testing!! As all the cattle on the farm are out at grazing, to get the entire heard in twice in one week is very challenging. I am keeping grazing back near the farm buildings and handling facility, so to be able to keep cattle close by for the testing period. As it has been very hot and dry here, the cows are ready for that grazing right now so the TB test is already having an impact on production and efficiency.
I try to put the TB test to the back of my mind and get on with the everyday running of the farm, but as the date gets closer that becomes impossible. The best way I can describe it is a black cloud that continues to grow the closer we get to test day. As all the stock look so well you can’t imagine anything could be wrong, but you don’t see bTB coming it can just arrive with devastating consequences and the feeling of helplessness can be overwhelming. It is easy to underestimate the effect this has on the farming family.
So plan A is a clear test on the 28th July which would mean no routine testing for 12months, and to be able to improve and expand the beef herd. Plan B, we will deal with that if we need too and I sincerely hope we don’t have too.
It’s been quite a while since I last posted a blog. Since then we have had two consecutive clear bTB tests at severe interpretation. This means we are again #tbfree which is excellent news and we do not need to do a whole herd test for another 6 months.
So what can I do to keep my herd free from bTB? This is the question many farmers are faced with. I continually look for things I can do regarding farm biosecurity etc and there are always new ideas that may help. I recently went to a farm biosecurity event which was interesting although nothing new came from it however, it’s important to keep looking at all options.
The one thing that I see as really important is Disease Transmission. How does the disease get from the environment to cattle or badgers or from cattle or badgers in to the environment or is it just direct contact between species or across species? If we understood this better it would certainly help with reducing the risk of disease spread and reinfection also we could target biosecurity much better.
It may be some time before this is better understood, and what we must continue to do is use what we do know that works to our best advantage.
We had a disappointing test last Friday (9th Sep) Three of our cows 4/5 months pregnant were positive tb reactors, they are due to be taken next week, this means weaning their calves two months early , there bellowing will be a constant reminder of the realities of btb .
There is not a lot more I want to say just now, there is an overwhelming feeling of hitting my head against a brick wall and getting nowhere.
We are tb testing again, reading test on Friday 9th.Having been placed under tb restrictions again back in June because of a suspect case at slaughter (now confirmed)
I have no idea what the outcome of this whole herd test will be, a clear test of a disaster. It’s a very anxious time and you can only hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
All I can say is the cattle look magnificent at the moment having had a summer of grazing grass, they are in fine condition.
Will update results after Friday.
It’s been some time since I last wrote a blog post Apart from being a busy time on the farm, calving, planting, and all the other jobs going on the farm. I have been enjoying being OTBF Officially TB free. It’s so nice not having to test the cattle every 60 days; it really is such a big relief for all of us.
We have had a really good calving this year all the cattle out at grass look really well with grass growing faster than they can graze it. May and June is a wonderful time with the cattle they are so content, very happy cows.
Churri and I visited a farm in the north Cotswolds, a lovely farm exceptionally well maintained with a flock of Cotswold sheep and Longhorn cattle, the sheep looked very good but I’m no shepherd, the longhorn cattle were magnificent all of them and in that environment were quite something to see.
While looking around the farm with the farmer, we discussed the large number of badger setts on the farm and indeed they were very evident. Sadly earlier this year the senior longhorn stock bull failed a tb test and had to be slaughtered. We spent some time discussing Btb etc. And one thing stood out to me, I’m looking at this near perfect landscape surrounded by cattle sheep and any number of wild animals, and people walking along a public footpath. The farmer said, the trouble with bTB is its invisible you can’t see it no one can. And how true, those people walking through this idyllic landscape I’m sure enjoying seeing the longhorn cattle, would be totally unaware of the potential devastation bTB could cause on this farm. Perhaps this is why there is such a lack of understanding in the urban population surrounding the whole bTB debate and how we should tackle it.If you could see cattle suffering the need to do something to stop it would be much greater maybe. The harsh reality is if you’re farming in an area with endemic bTB the total misery of this silent invisible disease can be utterly devastating. I have never seen any sign of disease or ill health in any of my cattle that have been bTB reactors.
The need to implement the government’s 25 year eradication plan and to evolve it, are greater now than it has ever been. Today around 80 cattle will be slaughtered as btb reactors and tomorrow and the next day and every day until we stop this disease.
Can we stop it ? Yes, we have had it all but eradicated in the 1980s Grit determination and hard work and the difficult decisions that need to be taken must be. There is no easy solution to this disease, those who surgest there are with fanciful ideas are deluded fools and do not serve the countryside of the animals that live in it at all.
I will enjoy this summer without tb testing, we test again in the autumn. There is quite a lot of badger activity which is usual at this time of year. I can only hope our current good fortune will continue, the reality is it’s a temporary situation.
Please note my yahoo email account is not operational and i’m unable to access it, apologies if i have not returned emails from it .
It is with great relief I can say we are now #tbfree having had our second clear tb test on Friday. This means all movement restrictions and now lifted, so I can now freely trade stock.
It was not really a surprise on Friday as I had been hoping it would be clear and there is a pattern here, as all but my spring calving cows have been housed since our last test and the spring calvers have been on turnips. So the interaction with badgers or feeding where badgers have been is greatly reduced. So as with many farms you go down with bTB in the spring/summer when cattle are grazing grass and are exposed to all wildlife that share the same habitat, and clear it up when the cattle are away from the grass/pasture.
So why do I turn my cattle out to grass, to keep them housed 24/7/ would be totally uneconomic and it’s also very important that cattle graze our meadows and banks to ensure all the flora and fauna can flourish.
What can I do to keep my #tbfree status, we take all aspects of biosecurity very seriously, and do I believe all I can to prevent tb coming in to our herd. The one thing I currently can’t do is to deal with the source of infection in our badger population; this is paramount to solving the problem I believe. The only solution which is becoming available will be to cull badgers, which will never be popular or easy but essential. I do look forward to a time when we can have cattle and badgers sharing the same habitat without fear of bTB being passed to either species. It will take time but it is achievable. It’s worth saying that I can’t see an easy way around this issue there is no pain free way to achieve the desired result of a #tbfree England.
The weight has been lifted from my shoulders for a while and I hope a long while, fingers crossed for our 6 mts check test.
We read our 60 day test tomorrow; it is an anxious three days waiting for Friday’s results.
If we have a clear test, and I so hope we do, then restrictions will be lifted as it would be our second clear test. That means for 60 days I can trade my cattle freely and would not have to test cattle for 6 months.
That would be a very welcome relief not to have to test for 6 months, and to think there is no infection in the herd at present.
It’s also really important to be able to trade freely for my business to generate income.
We got in, our last cattle on Monday, off of winter grazing stubble turnips. All my other cattle have been housed since our last test so in hopeful there will have been very little contact with infected wildlife over the last two months and out test will be clear, if it is not clear its desperation and despair, I’m keeping positive for a clear one.
Results will follow.
Today I hear of yet another farm loosing over 25% of their herd to tb, 45 cattle. This is all too familiar and quite sickening. The situation in the UK with bTB is not acceptable to continue to cull cattle on this scale without controlling the infected wildlife reservoir is in my opinion immoral.
The link below is a video of yet another farm where btb has had a devastating effect this time 21 cattle are culled for btb from a closed herd of cattle, so where has the disease come from if not wildlife? Please view the video
Having now had my meetings with George Eustice at DEFRA and EU Directorate General SANTE . I found both very interesting and useful , the content of the meetings were confidential, However the need for the government to implement its 25 year plan in full (including roll out of the badger cull) must come without delay or further hindrance, if we have any hope of controlling this disease at all.
Below is an extract from The EU, DG Sanco (now DG SANTE) Its interesting reading.
DG Sanco report on bTB in the UK (WD SANCO/10067/2013, on TB eradication – as accepted by the UK TB Task force sub-group)
There are currently no legislative provisions on EU level for TB eradication in animal species
other than cattle (except for milking goats in direct contact with cattle in the context of food
An active approach to the removal of TB-infected wildlife, or other species that share the
environment with cattle and the development of appropriate means of preventing transmission
of TB from these sources to cattle, and vice versa, is recommended. This also involves the
development and evaluation of diagnostic tests for these animal species.
It has been demonstrated that the persistence of an infected animal reservoir that enters into
contact with cattle is a major obstacle to the eradication of TB. This obstacle should be
addressed in tandem with the measures implemented in relation to the cattle population.
In addition, one of the conclusion of the task force meeting held in UK in 2012 is:
It is however of utmost importance that there is a political consensus and commitment
to long-term strategies to combat TB in badgers as well as in cattle. The Welsh
eradication plan will lose some impetus as badger culling will now be replaced with
badger vaccination. This was not part of the original strategy that consisted of a
comprehensive plan that has now been disrupted.
There is no scientific evidence to demonstrate that badger vaccination will reduce the
incidence of TB in cattle. However there is considerable evidence to support the removal
of badgers in order to improve the TB status of both badgers and cattle.
UK politicians must accept their responsibility to their own farmers and taxpayers as
well as to the rest of the EU and commit to a long-term strategy that is not dependent on
elections. The TB eradication programme needs continuity and it must be recognised
that success will be slow and perhaps hard to distinguish at first. There is a lot of skill
and knowledge among the veterinary authorities and they must be allowed time to use
There is some very important and relevant point in the above; the emphasis is very much on the British government to control the disease in cattle and in wildlife and to take a long term view” not dependant on elections” an independent body to run and oversee btb control policy ?
Very good news , we had a clear btb test on friday which was great relief to us. Testing again on the 19th January if that is clear too then restrictions will be lifted and I can trade normally again.
Very much looking forward to my meeting in London with Minister George Eustice and EFFRA Chair Neil Parish tomorrow , should be interesting and I welcome the opportunity for dialogue