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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...

Bovine TB - a cattle farmer's perspective

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Despite having a beef herd slap bang in the middle of a major bTB hotspot the author of this case study has always been clear regarding bovine TB, unlike most of his neighbours. Cattle farmer, Tim Green, can't say why this is but he tells us he does have a herd of real mongrels, not particularly high yielding, yet robust.They graze on a wide range of forage plants in the summer and their winter feed is proper old-fashioned hay (wild flowers, weeds and all). They have numerous badger setts amongst the pasture but they do make sure the badgers get supplementary feed when times are tough and mineral licks to keep their immune systems firing on all cylinders. What is bovine TB? Why are we set to cull huge numbers of badgers to deal with it? Here he attempts to answer some of these questions..

Well, if you're reading this piece hoping to glean some new facts or incisive reasoning to back up your already firmly held belief that culling badgers or not culling badgers is the right or wrong thing to do then I'm afraid you will be disappointed. In fact, the following summation of the problem as I see it will probably make you angry.

Badgers are largely irrelevant. The real problems are our mistaken belief that disease eradication is desirable, our hubris in thinking we can achieve said eradication, and mankind's continuing naïvety in expecting nature to abide by the arbitrary and spurious rules of economics that we hold so dear.

Animals and disease

All animals, including ourselves, deal with disease in one of two ways; by either dying or by getting better. If you get better, it means your immune system has done its job. If you don't get noticeably ill in the first place it means your immune system has done its job and if you die then your immune system wasn't much good in the first place. You may recognise this as natural selection, an ongoing process by which continued exposure to diseases and pathogens creates a population largely capable of surviving such things. This is sometimes referred to as "survival of the fittest".

In contrast, the current official "test and cull" policy to deal with bovine TB in the UK has been most aptly described as "survival of the shittest". This is the process by which we slaughter any cow that shows signs of mounting an immune response to the TB pathogen, thus steadily removing those animals from the population that had the best chance of surviving infection.

If that policy sounds a little insane to you then you probably aren't a politician. As far as I can tell, the only context in which such madness appears to make sense is in the paradoxical world of international trade. As a member of the EU we are "obliged" to try and eradicate bovine TB whether or not it's possible or even makes sense. Oh, and we're not allowed to use vaccines either. If money is your thing then it's worth noting that we are spending £100 million each year trying to protect an export market (live cattle) worth about £3.3 million.

For me, the whole bovine tb issue is so far beyond rational, logical discussion that it's futile to even try and discuss it rationally. Farmers are crying out to kill the badgers because they are trapped by an inherently flawed policy and are clutching at straws. The government is sinking in a quagmire of vested interests, lobby groups, media outrage, EU bureaucracy and public opinion. Those who oppose the cull are emotionally tied to the badgers' fate because they are (quite rightly) sick and tired of the seemingly unstoppable erosion of our natural environment.

Bovine TB - do we need a 'solution'?

So what's the solution? Well, if there is one it's a hell of a long way from where we are now. The independent group www.rethinkbtb.org have the best summary of the current situation I have seen and a very sensible suggested way forward – I highly recommend you read their discussion paper. The main thing they point out is that bovine TB isn't really much of a problem in the first place and the "devastating effect" it is having on farmers is in reality not from the disease but from the misguided attempted control policy.

The "test and cull" program has been going on now for 60 years and has only succeeded in costing a lot of money and stressing out farmers. Even total extinction of the badger wouldn't get rid of bTB as it is a very gregarious bacillus and is happy in pretty much any mammal. If the EU were to have a change of heart (or collapse completely which is looking distinctly possible at the moment) then we would at least be allowed to vaccinate cattle which would certainly have a much more pronounced effect. However, we should always bear in mind Sevareid's Law: "The chief cause of problems is solutions."

As farmer Joel Salatin says "pests and diseases are nature's way of telling us we are doing something wrong". You could argue that without diseases like bTB we would be free to carry on taking farming down its current ultimately doomed path. We could continue reducing the cattle gene pool to a puddle in the pursuit of ever more productive and freakish animals. Breeds like the Belgian Blue may produce a lot of rump steaks but that muscle mass has to have come at a price – most probably to its internal organs and immune system. It's no surprise that the new improved Holstein, the darling of industrial milk production, is particularly susceptible to TB infection. They have been bred to produce so much milk that they are effectively forced to digest their own bodies to keep up with their udders. Does that sound like a sensible survival trait to you?

Intensive farming in a world without Bovine TB

Without bTB we could also further increase our stocking densities, increase herd sizes, use lower quality forage and just push the animals a little harder all round. What appears to make sense economically is ecological suicide. If there is one thing that nature will not tolerate it is "economies of scale". Even in the absence of TB, a tightly packed herd of 2000 over-developed, under-the-weather cattle with little genetic variation between them are some other pathogen's dream home.

On our particular farm we are by no means doing everything right but, despite having a beef herd slap bang in the middle of a major bTB hotspot we are, unlike most of our neighbours, so far in the clear. I can't say why this is but we do have a herd of real mongrels, not particularly high yielding yet robust. They graze on a wide range of forage plants in the summer and their winter feed is proper old-fashioned hay (wild flowers, weeds and all). We have numerous badger setts amongst the pasture but we do make sure the badgers get supplementary feed when times are tough and mineral licks to keep their immune systems firing on all cylinders. Or we may just be lucky so far.

Looking beyond bTB there is a near infinite world of Foot and Mouth Disease, BSE, CBP, PPR, anthrax, trypanosomosis, brucellosis, avian influenza, swine fever, wheat rust, ergot, BYDV, potato blight, rice blast, rice ragged stunt, corn smut, maize mosaic virus, wilt, take-all, weevils, borers, warble flies, varroa mites, foul-brood, Newcastle disease, lungworm, liver fluke, fowl pox, aspergillosis......and on and on and on. The war on agricultural pests and diseases is an exercise in futility. So rather than trying to eradicate them I suggest we continue studying and observing and letting them tell us where we're going wrong. And, as things stand, that list is even longer.

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