Farmer David Barton



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.