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Knepp Estate, longhorn herd  read more...
A dairy farmer has been fined for chaotic record keeping that may have contributed to the spread of bovine tuberculosis on his premises.  read more...read more...
A young lad is forced to slaughter his pet cow because of the current bovine TB policy.  read more...read more...
A 33 year old farmer and father of two in Shrophsire was killed by a bull as he tested cattle for bTB. He was conducting routine bTB testing on cows at Ashwood Farm in Whitchurch on 3 December 2013 when he was fatally injured by a bull  read more...read more...
There is such a focus on badgers that the fact that bovine TB is a cattle based problem has been set on one side. History has shown us that the incidence of TB in cattle can be brought down to a very low level by cattle based measures alone. Add to this the vaccination of badgers in hot spot areas and even their implication can be dealt with.  read more...read more...
Looking at some of the anti cull websites and having kept a close eye on media reports during the trial culls that have recently finished in Gloucestershire and Somerset, it would seem that if the culling is rolled out into other areas the level of opposition is not going to get less and could even worsen, meaning that policing costs alone (paid for from public funds) are going to be exorbitant.  read more...read more...
This article is a summary of the significant legal proceedings relating to incidents re cattle and bovine TB.  read more...read more...
In this well researched article by Mike Rendle he poses this question: 'Are badger infections following, not leading, bovine TB infections in cattle? ' and discovers some very interesting facts about cattle, badgers and bovine TB.  read more...read more...
Bovine TB - the views of a farmer based on field-based observations over many years. Peter Aspin was a herdsman, then a dairy farmer. He is now a beef farmer and also has a contract rearing dairy heifers for a local farmer. He was conventional and is now organic. He also run the Shropshire Agroforestry Project. All on 40 acres. To understand bovine TB one must first understand how significantly livestock husbandry practices have changed in recent years. I was on a dairy farm a couple of years ago - a closed herd (one that reared all its own replacement youngstock) - which had had its first bTB breakdown. Two veterinarians had arrived to do the follow-up sixty day retest. Talking to them I asked what they thought was the source of the problem. Their immediate response was that the adjacent dairy farm had purchased imported cattle the previous year, this herd had subsequently developed bTB and passed the infection either directly or via a vector to the neighbouring herd. Whether the imported cattle were themselves carriers of bTB or whether they had no immunity, I do not know and I assumed the vets did not know but the issue of cattle importation is a major concern for both farmers and vets. Ever increasing numbers of dairy cattle are being imported simply because they are cheaper if large enough numbers are purchased. I know of a herd of over two thousand dairy cows where not a single replacement animal is home-reared, every single one arrives on a lorry from mainland Europe.  read more...read more...
Dairy farm worker, Steve Jones, is not happy about the future of the dairy industry, or the current policy to cull badgers. The industry has many problems. Bovine tuberculosis is just one.'The cattle industry is long overdue for reform', he says. Here he sets out his comments.  read more...read more...

The Hypocrisy of the Badger Cull

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After many months of deliberations the Government has finally forced through yet another flag ship policy. This does not only affect the general public but also the countryside and the rural fabric that binds it together. For many years the beef and dairy industry have been under extreme pressure from the price restraint leveled upon them by supermarkets and milk and meat processors. This has been so intense that from the 1980’s when we had 52,000 dairy farms we are now down to just 10,600 and still in free fall.

This has been overseen by a succession of Governments but latterly by the coalition of Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. There is no doubt that we need an overhaul of certain policies that have led us down the path of austerity in which we find ourselves as a nation.

The cattle industry is long overdue for reform. It is being indelibly driven into a downward spiral that is resulting in increased intensification and escalating poverty for those in no position to diversify or to become amalgamated into more viable units; which usually involves getting ever bigger and more efficient. The result of this intensification is more stress on the system and more stress on the animals within that system.

We can measure this stress by the way in which our livestock performs. In the dairy industry we have 22% lameness of our cattle, when it should be no more than 1%. We have increasing levels of mastitis (a disease that attacks the mammary system); High levels of infertility and ever increasing levels of lung diseases, especially in youngstock. These production problems are exacerbated by antibiotic resistance realised after years of abuse and overuse in an attempt to become more efficient.

All of this culminates into the damming statistic that we are culling our dairy cows at the age of 5 years, long before they reach their full productive capacity. Of these problems mentioned bovine tuberculosis is but another one of those highly preventable production problems.

The National Farmers Union, who only represents 18% of farmers, has long been promoting a badger cull in order to reduce the spread of bovine tb. They argue that badger numbers have increased significantly; despite there being no scientific evidence to support this claim.

They say that badgers are responsible for the demise of ground nesting birds and hedgehogs; yet the State of Nature Report, backed by the Hedgehog Society and the RSPB, point to a change in agricultural techniques and increasing intensification methods as being the major cause of species loss.

They say that badgers are riddled with bovine tb, yet only 1.7% of badgers carry the disease. They also say that bovine tb is decimating our cattle herds; yet another untruth. To decimate means that 10% of cattle are culled. The actual 0.5% of the National herd slaughtered for the disease is nowhere near to that figure. This low percentage is not a total loss to the industry for there is compensation paid to the farmer and the animal still goes into the food chain. Further illuminating the hypocrisy that bovine tb is a significant risk to human health.

The cost of bovine tb is miniscule in comparison to the major causes of slaughter within our cattle industry; those being mastitis, lameness and infertility. These losses can be so significant that even a breeding nucleus can’t even keep a pace with it and animals need to be bought in. This is cited as being one of the main reasons for increasing the spread of bovine tb into other areas.

The UK has the highest cattle movements in Europe, an estimated 13 million movements per year – a never ceasing bovine tb roundabout!

Yet another myth is that other countries have succeeded in their attempt to eradicate bovine tb through culling wildlife. Southern Ireland is cited as a success when in actual fact they struggle to keep bovine tb levels down even while reducing badger numbers by 10% per annum. If not for badgers in the North, where they have a vaccination policy, it is likely that the species would soon be extinct on the island. There are bovine tb outbreaks in areas where no badgers occur and can only be attributed to cattle movements and production stresses.

New Zealand is held high in regard too, yet significant differences exist between the the UK and that country. The brush tailed possum, which was an imported species, only became a problem when introduced into the cattle rich country of New Zealand. It was not a significant tb reservoir where it originated from in Australia. The brush tailed possum also carried a range of other diseases including EPM, a neurological disease in horses; it also carried rabies. Biosecurity was high on the management agenda as feed stores were contained and water troughs regularly washed and limed before rinsing and replenished with fresh water. The driving down of bovine tb rates went hand in hand with stringent bovine tb testing and cattle movements. New Zealand farmers are held financially responsible for the cost of the programme and do not receive the financial buffer that UK farmers are given.

One of the main reasons that the cow’s in New Zealand reacted better to disease control is the fact that they are a cross breed. The Kiwi cross is an amalgamation of three dairy breeds. The result of this is called highbred vigour that allows them to be more disease resistant and live longer, which is precisely what they do for they have a greater longevity than their British sisters.

Badgers are accused of being excreters of bovine tb. A cow that passes through the bovine tb trawl net and many do; excrete at the rate of 60lts of slurry per day and produce as much saliva in order to digest vast amounts of roughage. A cow that has bovine tb has the capacity to infect other herd members through these exudates and through infectious aerosols, especially during the winter time when cows are in close contact. They say that badgers directly infect cows.

40% of farms in highly infected bovine tb hotspot areas do not fall to the disease. The bovine tb bacterium does exist in slurry and if this includes infected milk and is then spread on the land, a direct link with wildlife infection can result. Infected land can stay that way for months giving the bacteria plenty of time to infiltrate water courses and soil organisms such as earth worms. The link with badger infection is easily realised when you consider that the badger’s main diet is earth worms coated in humus rich soil.

The National Farmers Union says that vaccination of badgers is a waste of time. Wales is trialling a vaccination programme. It is into the second year and at the end of five years any infected badgers will naturally die out, leaving a healthy population. Vaccination is cheaper than shooting and especially so when coupled with the inclusion of volunteer vaccinators who are willing to supply their time at a minimal cost. There is no perturbation effect, when badgers become so perturbed at being persecuted that they relocate due to fear and stress; thus making themselves more disease susceptible. This has been cited as being a significant reason for an increase in bovine tb on the periphery of cull zones. There are also no safety issues, as there most defiantly are with shooting in the dark in a highly publicised and contentious cull scenario.

If the NFU were serious about bovine tb then they would have lobbied Government to allow cattle vaccination. A vaccine was ten years away twenty years ago; and it is still ten years away today. Their argument is that because it is a zoonosis (which means that we can catch tuberculosis through drinking infected milk and eating contaminated meat) it’s best to remove from the food chain at source. The truth is that infected cows that fail to test positive still get milked and that milk is drunk at farm level as raw milk. I myself have drunk thousands of gallons of raw milk during my life time and much of that was in other countries. As I mentioned before the meat from bovine tb positive cattle go into the food chain too. This isn’t regarded as a threat to human health otherwise it would carry a health warning to cook thoroughly.

These pilot culls do not discriminate between healthy or unhealthy badgers. Many badger setts are free of bovine tb and will remain to be so if left to their own natural devices. If these disease resistant badgers are disturbed then it can only result in a diminishing of disease resistance in our wildlife reservoir.

Badgers do not deserve to carry the cross of an industry in crisis and I don’t believe that the British consumer will sanction an industry that uses a bullet instead of sound animal husbandry and basic biosecurity. Steve Jones @DairyBoys

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