Reflecting on 2014

As 2014 comes to a close and we look forward to 2015, I thought I would reflect on the past year. Having completed 5 whole herd bTB tests this year, we finally had a clear test on the 12th December which has given us all a huge boost.

At the beginning of the year my confidence in politicians sorting out a sensible policy for Btb in the UK was pretty low! However, I very much welcomed the 25 year strategy plans announced but alas, it appears there is going to be picking and choosing by the government. By that I mean more movement restrictions, fines for late testing and more red tape to struggle though. However, the one thing that is showing real progress in massively reducing bTB is the pilot wildlife controls in Gloucestershire and Somerset. There is, as yet, no announcement to roll this part of the strategy out across the South West. I and many other Farmers ask the question ‘ Why not?’ ( Could there be a general election coming up?!! ) While politicians and prime ministers dither , more cattle will be slaughtered, more wildlife will become infected and the disease will spread further in to the low risk areas. The job to stop, control and contain this disease will get bigger and I wonder who’s job it will eventually be to clear up this environmental and political mess ….. you have guessed it!…. the farmers of the UK. If there was ever a case to completely de-politicise the policy for disease control of bTB in the UK this has to be it. I will hold those in decision making positions to change this and to choose not to responsible for any more of my cattle to be slaughtered under this policy.

As for the so called animal rights protesters , badgerists ,single species brigade or as I like to call them “The flat earthers” they seem to have one goal and one goal alone, save every badger regardless of any circumstance. My goal is simple, it’s not to save every living bovine or to kill every living badger no, its to get the UK TB free. To benefit not only farmed animals but wild animals too. To have our beautiful countryside free from this dreadful disease. It is achievable, we have indeed done it before, but while we have this ridiculous protected status on badgers which have no natural predators and that were never an endangered species but do carry bTb and can be super execrators of bTb, it is going to be challenging . Politicians will need backbone, have they got it? We shall see… I won’t be holding my breath.

Back in April we posted the video of Ernie being shot on the Farm as part of the Government’s bTB control policy. The purpose of that was to hopefully engage with non-farming members of the public and give an insight in what it’s like living on beef farm with bTB. I hope we have gone some way to achieve this, the many comments and conversations I have had since would suggest so.

We have now finished autumn calving and Ernie has left us with what will be his last calves and they are like all his previous calves, superb.

I will continue to engage with people from both sides of the bTB argument as I believe it’s important to do so. I would encourage many more farmers to do the same as no one else will do it for us.

I wish one and all a very happy, healthy and prosperous ( and bTB free ) new year!

Cows on roots Christmas day 2014
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8 thoughts on “Reflecting on 2014

  1. Well done and thank you for making the case for all farmers throughout the year. Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and TB free 2015, as we wish ourselves – dairy farmers on the TB free Isle of Wight. Many problems for us as we sell unpasteurised milk from our pedigree Guernsey herd direct to the public from our Farm Shop. Although in a 4 year testing zone, we are tested every year, in order to give the consumer the opportunity to drink the milk of their choosing.

  2. Thank you David for telling your story & highlighting what we have to achieve – a bTB free country.
    This terrible disease should not be in our wildlife or farmed animals. This should have been eradicated many years ago. The farmers have been very brave in the pilot disease control areas and I am delighted they are seeing a reduction in the disease already.

  3. Money, money, money, ! Nothing else matters to cattle farmers, and you are right, election time soon, watch the Torys and nfu,squirm.

  4. Sorry to hear of your losses David. I’m sure you farm very well as do many other farmers, and take good care of your stock.

    However you completely undermine your argument by referring to opponents of culling as “flat earthers”. Not all of us are animal rights activists as you seem to suggest, we are just people who have read the research that strongly suggests that culling badgers will not contribute towards the eradication of TB in this country. 30+ scientists in animal ecology and disease wrote to the government urging them to reconsider this policy. Would you call all of them animal rights activists too? So please don’t tar all of us with the same brush.

    British trials looking into the effects of badger culling on TB have shown that it will have very little impact on the disease. And Wales is currently reducing its number of positive reactors year on year without any kind of wildlife control. Studies in other countries have admittedly shown different results, but they are incomparable. You say you don’t want to eradicate badgers, but the only places where badger removal might have reduced TB (with emphasis on the word “might”, because other variables were not measured), farmers have eradicated badgers entirely from localities with TB.

    When you look at the science, you need to have an open mind. Correlations (such as badgers being on your farm, therefore you think badgers spread the disease to your herd) are meaningless on their own as they don’t take account of the complex epidemiology of TB. You cannot just pick and choose evidence from certain countries, you need to look at it from a wider perspective. This is what the ISG did when they published their report in 2007, and taking both evidence and public attitudes into account, concluded that culling was the wrong solution. More recent studies (Donnelly et al 2010, Brooks-Pollock et al, 2014) have backed this up.

    You suggest that we all want to save every badger in every circumstance. This is nonsense I’m afraid. If a badger were found with severe late stage TB then humane removal might be the best way to deal with it. But very, very rarely does the disease reach this stage in badgers. It does not adversely impact on badger welfare.

    So you can ignore the facts all they like, but it won’t help you. Nor will your patronizing comments about “flat earthers” many of whom are just as knowledgable as you, just because someone isn’t a farmer it doesn’t mean they don’t care about animal welfare. Farmers know the countryside well, and they know about good practice in animal husbandry, but they do not go out there day after day and monitor the disease in badgers or the wider environment. Leave that to the wildlife experts, please.

    Finally, I very much hope your situation improves. I can promise you, that you do not have to kill badgers to get on top of this disease. Being anti-cull does not mean being anti-farmer. We are all anti-TB,. and I’m sure you will agree that that is the most important thing.

    • Thank you KS009746, for your concern about my situation and I do feel it is genuine.
      I do try to look at this very complex disease from all angles, you are absolutely right we are all anti-TB
      You refer to British trials; I assume the last one, RBCT? There were 6 trials carried out all of which show reduction in Btb in cattle some at 80 to 100 %( Thornbury) so we can all choose the data to suite our argument, which does get rather dull
      In the mid 1980 we almost had this dreadful disease sorted, down to a few hundred cases in total in the UK and that was though testing cattle (far less than we do today) and the culling of badgers in Btb hotspots it was very successful. The badger protection act came in to place and we see bTB rise with the badger population the graph shows this very well indeed.
      So why do we seen so keen to find a different solution to this problem when we already know what to do? Exactly what we did in the past. And you would have to say the current measures simply don’t work.
      What I would like to see is a situation when we don’t have to cull cattle or badgers but to get there both will have to be culled to get the countryside free from Btb this may seem harsh and it is and very unpleasant, it does work just look at history you don’t need mathematical modelling trials or scientist’s with conflicting views, it is really rather simple so simple it appears to be overlooked.
      You say it’s very very rare to find badgers with late stage tb, that’s not necessarily what we see on the ground. Do you have evidence or data to back this up?
      I do thank you for your comments and am sure should we ever meet we would find common ground although there are some things we won’t be able to agree on. To have dialog and respect for one another is so important.

  5. Whilst I am very pleased to hear your are bTB free, I would like to know how the present experiments (culls), in Somerset and Gloucester are, as you say, “massively reducing bTB” and enabled you to be bTB free. How could an infectious badger from the cull zone, which would have had to cross the River Severn at a wide part, cross the M5 and then walk miles to your farm, spread bTB and then walk all the way back to be killed. These pilot experiments were just that, experiments to see if free shooting would be effective, humane and safe, they will have had no impact on bTB in the cull zone let alone on a farm miles and miles away. I am concerned that as you seem to complain about the added bio-security farmers are now having to implement, which is the obvious reason you are now bTB free, you are still clinging on to the hope that it is badgers alone that spread the disease, you might not take the extra measures as seriously as you should, and also give a false message to other farmers, resulting in bTB once again manifesting itself. For your information I am just an ordinary person who would like to see healthy farms, and healthy wildlife, as are most of us who have researched and studied this situation. I feel that farmers are being duped by this government and the NFU, the money wasted on these culls could be better spent to actually help eradicate bTB. Also calling us various ‘names’ does you a disservice, we are sensible, concerned UK residents.

    • Chapmanz, thank you for your reply, just to be clear I have not said that my current bTB situation (1 clear test) has anything to do with the success of the pilot culls in Glos and Somerset clearly it has not. We have had a clear test because we continue to test all our cattle every 60 days and any reactors are culled, that is current policy, it does get rid of bTB in cattle the problem is that the source of infection in wildlife (badgers) is not being dealt with, so the cattle get re -infected and the cycle continues and this is why it’s important to roll out a control policy.
      I certainly do not believe or have ever said that it is only badgers and badgers alone that spread bTB of course cattle can as well as deer and sadly it is slowly spreading to other animals. It would be fair to say that cattle and badgers are the main hosts for bTB, but remember we are testing cattle and culling them where nessary but not badgers apart from the pilot culls where we are already seeing reduction in Btb this cannot be ignored.
      I do take bio security very seriously and am not complaining about doing it, my point was that there is a government 25 year policy and for that to work it must be fully implemented and it is not currently, Wildlife control is part of the policy and it should be rolled out in the areas where bTB is rife as there is little point continuing without it as we have not been getting on the of the disease with the current measures.
      You can be assured I take all measures very seriously indeed , when you have had to cull as many cattle as I have for bTB control it does very much concentrate the mind on finding solutions , have you had to cull any animals because of a government policy ? I expect not, we both want to see a bTB free countryside and all measures must be used to get on top of it.
      Your are quite wrong to suggest that I have been duped by government or the NFU this is a complex disease and we must all work together to see an end to it and a TB free countryside, you are right to be concerned about the countryside we all should be TB is a very nasty disease
      Thank you again for replying, my last blog post it was not a name calling exercise , but it has created dialog between us which is a good thing I would have thought as I am interested in your views .

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