A young farmer’s bTB story

Towards the end of last year I found out that six farms locally had had new bTB breakdowns. As readers of this blog will know, I am all too familiar with the misery that news causes.

I want to highlight one case in particular – a young farmer I know who has a small herd of 68 pedigree beef longhorns which he is building up.

longhorn cattle grazing

It’s great to see someone with the passion and the dedication necessary to make this type of business work. Not only does he rear and finish his longhorns, he also adds value to his produce by selling it to local restaurants and pubs.

Sadly this young farmer was one of the six new bTB breakdowns that occurred at the end of last year. He lost 11 of his pedigree longhorns, including a senior stock bull, a junior stock bull, and his best foundation cow, Isobel, who was suckling a bull calf with great potential among others.

longhorn cow and calf

It is difficult to describe what a bitter blow this has been for this young man. It is so hard to see cattle leave the farm to be slaughtered for bTB when you’re trying to build a closed pedigree herd and build a business. The emotional wrench really hits you hard.

longhorn bull

What is also sad is that this young man does not want to put his name or the name of his farm to his story because of the fear of intimidation. This is not an unfamiliar situation and is a sad thing to have to say in a free and civilised society – we must have the right to protest legally but we should feel able to speak freely without the fear of intimidation.

It is interesting that during this year’s badger cull the so called animal rights activists said there had not been any intimidation of farmers and residents. The list of incidents released by Gloucestershire Police recently would suggest that wasn’t the case. It was also good to see one of the leading figures in this movement, Jay Tiernan, found in contempt of court for breaching the High Court injunction granted to the NFU to protect farmers and their families from harassment and intimidation and given a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years. I do hope that Gloucestershire Police will take note and take action where it is necessary with this year’s cull.

All of this just strengthens my resolve to make sure we get on top of this dreadful disease. We must have a healthy, living, working countryside which will benefit us all. It’s time to make bTB a thing of the past in our wonderful countryside.

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5 thoughts on “A young farmer’s bTB story

  1. Going down with TB is a very painful experience , heartbreaking, and no words can ever console in the loss of animals, at present we are clear, but only until the next Test .

  2. The most annoying part of this is that controlling bovine TB is as close to a solved problem as makes no difference. The large-scale field trials in Thornbury and Hartland (especially the former) demonstrated that if you take an area with endemic TB and gas all the badger setts you can find, then the level of TB rapidly drops to zero and stays there. In the case of Thornbury, the TB levels dropped to zero and stayed there for a decade.

    Epidemiologically speaking, this is case closed. We’ve done the experiment; badgers present means TB present. Badgers killed off, no TB. We do not actually need to know how the disease spreads, as we know that it does.

    Interestingly though, there has been a new lead on how TB may persist so well in badger populations, which ties into badger biology. It was reported in 2006, and confirmed in 2011 that the vaccine strain of bTB has been seen making endospores, but only when the culture medium it was in was almost exhausted. The vaccine strain, BCG, cannot do anything that the wild type cannot do, so the wild type bTB presumably can make endospores and does so when its host is about to die, or has just died.

    As a sick badger will head underground and try to sleep off sickness, this means that bTB mostly makes endospores in badgers that are underground. This will have the effect of contaminating badger setts with bTB endospores, thus even if you completely exterminate badgers the disused setts will remain contaminated, and re-infect badgers when these are re-occupied. Thus, if you are attempting to decontaminate an area, thoroughly gassing a sett then filling it in and destroying the surface features as thoroughly as possible to prevent re-occupation may be a very sensible precaution.

    • Hi Dr Dan H, You make some very relevant points and clear observations .Sadly in the whole TB debate common sense and logic are widely missed .To control this disease. It will be necessary to cull badgers; this is without doubt a very unpleasant task but an essential one if we are to stop the spread of Btb right across the country and infecting other species

  3. It wasn’t so long ago that Longhorns were on the ‘endangered’ list of the Rare Breed Society. Only the dedication of several breeders have lifted them off that rung, and now TB is pushing them hard, back down again.
    Zoonotic tuberculosis is a disease of mammals, not just dairy cattle or badgers.

    Dr. Dan H. You are quite correct re cause / effect of disease transmission, in fact there is a gold standard protocol for assessing it.
    If a dozen or so ‘postulates’ are fulfilled, then transmission does not have to be proved, it can be assumed to happen.
    We covered them in our Christmas posting:
    http://bovinetb.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/happy-christmas-2014.html

    jem

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