England in summertime

 

Cattle may 16

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 .

CLEAR TEST

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.

An Anxious Week

 

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.

More Needless Cattle Slaughter

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
safety rules).
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
it.

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 ?

Clear Test

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

Dialog is Essential

Dialog is Essential

It’s been a while since my last post, and we are near to our next 60 day bTB test on the 17thNov reading on the 20th all with the usual anxiety.

My neighbour had a devastating bTB test recently, losing 22 cattle 17 in calf cows 4 calves and 1 stock bull. I know from personal experience just how devastating this will have been for him and his family, it’s just awful. This happened in a group of just over 40 cattle that have shared the same grazing this summer along with wildlife.

This is an all too familiar story happening all too often and largely under reported. We must take all steps to stop this happening. From a farming point of view, we have many restrictions and controls with cattle as part of the Government’s 25yr stratergy and this is largely correct. However, it is absolutely not correct not to tackle the disease in wildlife at the same time.

I am keen to see all options to help control bTB, and I recently visited Professor Elizabeth Wellington at Warwick University to see the work she has done on a PCR test to detect bTB from various sources in the environment, I was very impressed and believe this could be a very useful tool to help detect bTB in cattle and wildlife. I very much hope the” powers that be” will take this forward , and evaluate it within the guidelines Prof Wellington has developed.
At the end of this month I have a meeting with Minister George Eustice MP & Neil Parish Chairman of the EFFERA committee , I am grateful to both of them for making the time and look forward to a constructive meeting. In early December I have a meeting in Brussels with the Commission team who are part of DG Health and Food Safety, Directorate G, Veterinary and International Affairs .My thanks to Julie Girling MEP who has been most helpful in arranging this. I always enter meetings on bTB with an open mind and optimism, sometimes this is shattered sometimes it’s not. Good dialog with all is essential to move forward, and we really do need to move forward now as a matter of urgency.

I very much look forward to this year’s results from Gloucestershire and Somerset Pilots and also the new roll out area in Dorset, I know how much time and effort goes in to making them safe, humane and efficient, this is such an important part of the 25yr plan and needs to be employed much wider across the Southwest and other areas where bTB is endemic.

I am particularly concerned about the abrupt changes to Orange Markets by DEFRA, with no consultation with the industry. Has anyone looked at how this could affect farmers under bTB restriction? And if it has been necessary to make any changes at all. Does someone look at data to see if there is a real risk here or is it just meddling for the sake of it. It’s worth remembering that farmers are placed under bTB restriction through no fault of their own. It’s imperative those farmers placed under bTB restriction have an outlet to sell stock in a fair market. There are times when stock needs to be sold for welfare reasons if housing is short, etc. .The ability to be able to take your own stock home if its unsold, is I believe essential. This would have happened very few times but it keeps the market for cattle under bTB restrictions honest .

TB TESTING A “HELLISH” WEEK

MRS COW
no 37

Tuesday, gathering all the cattle in for testing, it’s never easy when grass is abundant, but they all came in quietly. We set about the all too familiar task of bTB testing. All done by 1.00 pm and its back to grain drying ,straw clearing and harvesting between the showers.
The days between the test I try not to look for lumps on the cattle as it’s easy to misinterpret what you see, however human nature got the better of me, I noticed a bottom lump on one of my best Sussex cows, heart sinks and despair sets in, the thought of losing such a fine, gentle kind natured a quite adorable cow is all to much. So we are back on the 60 day testing treadmill a hellish thought.
Friday test reading day. We start gathering the cattle at first light, there not at all keen to come in , having been in on Tuesday there reluctance and displeasure is very apparent ……as is mine, there is no pleasure of job satisfaction in bTB testing at all its just misery and aggravation.. We have a good team to help and our system for handling cattle is working well we are checking and reading about 90 cattle an hour. We have done about 100 cattle when No 37 or Mrs Cow as she known comes down the race, I can tell by the expression on the testers face it’s not good news, Churri reads from the test chart that the remarks says “existing lumps” some optimism for a moment, I look with the tester and she has a bottom lump on her clip mark, this was not the existing lump and she is a reactor.This cow will be culled by order of DEFRA. The tester puts the all too familiar green ear tag in her left ear.
mrs cow

Cattle can pass tb to badgers and badgers can pass tb to cattle FACT.

Badgers have protected status; they continue to spread tb across the country FACT

Nowhere in the world has tb been successfully controlled without tackling the wildlife FACT

We culled over 33000 cattle last year to “control” tb FACT

The current policy to control bTB is failing spectacularly FACT

The governments dithering on controlling badgers is righting a death sentence for over 33000 cattle just like Mrs Cow FACT

SHAME ON YOU THE DECISION MAKERS IN WESTMINSTER

More Testing Times

cattle grazing aug 15

We are btb testing tomorrow the 1st of September and reading the test on Friday the 4th. I had planned this 6 month check test for this date thinking harvest would be finished. It should have been but the combine has not moved for 12 days due to the wet weather. This does add to the pressure of a test week, I’m not looking forward to it at all as I have no idea what to expect on Friday when we read the test. We have the added worry that there was a suspect case at the abattoir (for tb) in early June which so far has not been confirmed an has been sent for re-culture testing, so the 6 month check test is probably a short interval test now but on standard test reading unless the culture test is positive then the test will be read on severe reading. Confused? Join the club.
So far as bovine tuberculosis goes I’m certainly no expert and have never suggested that I am, but for 48 years I have lived and worked on the family farm , and I think I have a good understanding and experience. The importance of having livestock on a Cotswold farm cannot be underestimated. They enrich our very thin soil and give it much needed fertility , and the fact they graze our banks ,valleys and meadows has enormous environmental benefits , so I firmly believe cattle are very important for the reasons just mentioned and for the meat they produce to feed people who enjoy eating meat. I do take exception when an aging celebrity rock star with a non-meat eating agenda suddenly has become an expert on btb and how to control it and eradicate it, is miss informing the public and being only interested in one species, the badger, at the expense of all others – including humans .Is this rational? I think not. What about the 30,000 cattle a year slaughtered because of this disease and the many people who are devastated by the loss of their cattle. Do ageing rock stars give any thought to them? No! What about the other species that are being infected? What thought to them? Unfortunately btb will not be brought under control in a cute and cuddly way as some celebrities may like to think it can. It will take harsh measures which only get harsher because of delays in dealing with it.
With weak government and hollow promises, and continued pressure from misguided so called animal welfare groups this disease will continue to spread. This is not and has never been about cattle or badgers – it’s about getting the UK #tbfree and all measures will be required. Do we not want an environment free from tb for future generations to enjoy? I had some friends stay with us earlier in August from the USA. His father and uncle ran a sanatorium nearby – a sanatorium for tuberculosis. This was just one generation ago. We now have antibiotic resitant tb in the world; I wonder what our grandfathers would think of the totally reckless way we are dealing with this disease?

Back Under bTB Restriction

I had a phone call from APHA to tell me one of my steers that had gone for beef the previous day had a suspect bTB lesion in its lungs, it will be sent for culture testing , 4 out of 5 comeback positive for bTB . It is an anxious wait for the results which take about 7 weeks to come back. So I’m put under restriction pending the result, if it’s negative and I hope and pray that it is then if our next whole herd test in September is clear, restrictions will be lifted. There is a lot of “if’s” there and I can’t help but prepare for the worst as we have been here to many times before.
We wait and wait to hear what the new government is going to do to implement its 25 year plan in full to get the UK #tbfree. I believe we will hear very soon, although it does appear that they have gone to sleep on the subject. Time waits for no man, bTB certainly does not.
In 1986 in the UK we had just 235 bTB reactors; in 2014 we had 32859 bTB reactors
This is an epic failure of catastrophic proportions on a policy that has been followed by successive governments, change is long overdue.
It is time farmers stop accepting the mass slaughter of cattle following a policy that does simply not work, the nettle must be grasped and the wildlife reservoir must be addressed without delay

One year on

It’s nearly a year since I started this blog, so I thought I would have a look back at the posts I have written. I have to say, the early posts I still find very hard to read. The raw emotion comes flooding back.

So are we in a better place so far as bTB is concerned? Have we made progress in beating this terrible disease? I’d like to say a resounding yes but I can’t. BTB has become even more political with the election only days away, the result will be crucial as to whether common sense can prevail or whether it cannot.

As a beef farmer in the SW the only hope I have as a way forward to eradicate bTB is in the pilots in Glos and Somerset, we are seeing such encouraging results. No surprise too many as all the previous trials have shown reduction in bTB were badgers are culled. The current 25 year plan without culling of badgers will be a burdensome waste of time for all

People who like to use this emotive subject for political gain or with hidden agendas do themselves the country especially the countryside a huge disservice. The people that have visited the farm that don’t share my views but have taken the trouble I thank very much, for those that have declined to visit are in my view cowards……and there are a couple.

Cows & Calves at Pasture


 

cows at grass

 

With all my cattle turned out to grass for the summer it’s great to see them grazing our meadows and banks. I can’t help but worry about our next 6 month check test in the autumn especially when I see increasing evidence of badgers routing up the pasture for earth worms. What biosecurity can I do when the cattle are at pasture? This year we are using raised mineral feeders from Rumenco which are badger proof to try to minimise everything we can. But it’s the pasture the cattle graze and the interaction between cattle and badgers that we can’t stop when there out grazing.

Raised Mineral Feeders from Rumenco


 

 

cattle minerals feeder rumenco

 

I thought I would copy a link to the video we poster this time last year just so no one forgets the misery bTB causes on farms.              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DODojjlxnwY