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.
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.
Next 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.
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.