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 .



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


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

Does culling badgers reduce bovine TB in cattle?

Does culling badgers reduce bovine TB in cattle?

This question as to whether culling badgers will reduce bTB in cattle is getting rather tired now. If we look at the history of the disease and how we had previously managed to become virtually bTB free, and the various trials including RBCT all show it does work.

Now we have data coming in from both cull areas in Gloucester and Somerset showing a sharp reduction in bTB on farm see document below.

Blowey, Gray, Griffiths, + Rowe, Feb 2015 – Copy


So I was dismayed to read No 3 of the Labour party manifesto  3)         Labour will end the ineffective and inhumane badger culls 

It is now becoming clear that this is a political game; it’s not so funny if you’re dealing with bTB on farm with the misery it causes, farmers and farming families. It is surly time for the eradication of bTB in the UK to be depoliticised with an independent body. It is so unfair to say that the pilot culls have been inhuman and ineffective when the data clearly show the opposite, and the care and attention to detail to make sure that they are indeed humane. I was made aware this week of a farm which has just had a new bTB outbreak, 2 in calf heifers close to calving will have 21 day in which to calve if they do not then they will be slaughtered. They may be only days from giving birth, is this fair is this humane? I don’t think so, but it is the policy that all political parties follow, the tightening up on bTB testing and cattle movements that’s in reality what it means.

It’s time for a common sense approach to tackle bTB and in doing so not only will we become bTB free in the UK there will be huge cost savings to the treasury see document below.

Potential Cost savings Associated with the Gloucestershire Cull

Friday the 13th was lucky for me.


We had our second clear bTB test last Friday, a huge relief to all of here on the farm. No more testing for 6 months.

It just goes to show that with rigorous testing of cattle we can and do get rid of bTB in the cattle herd. The big problem is currently we are not doing anything to control the source of infection, badgers.

So until we are able to control the source of infection this will sadly be a temporary reprieve for us I hope we stay clear but realistically that will be wishful thinking. I just heard my neighbour has just had 2 reactors after being clear, so the bloody merry-go-round goes on.


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.

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