13 Aug 2014, 1:18 PM
A prize winning family of Cornish farmers are demanding changes to the way the bovine TB crisis is being handled. The call comes as their young son prepares to face the cruellest consequence of the disease and send his prized cow off to slaughter. Paul and Lisa Frain, from Tregadillett near Launceston, have been keeping a small number of pedigree Aberdeen Angus, Charolais and Dexter cattle since 2006, and their young son Kian has been well and truly bitten by the showing bug.
Kian is an exciting prospect for the South West’s farming industry, bursting with enthusiasm and already a known name on the cattle showing circuit, attracting media attention from the specialist publications. At only 11 years old, it is clear to see just how devoted Kian is to showing cattle, as he proudly clutches his trophies and talks about a recent school project, which he spent hours carefully putting together. But following two inconclusive bovine TB tests on his beloved red Dexter cow Beechleigh Granite, bought by Paul and Lisa to start off his own herd, Kian is having to come to terms with her soon being sent to slaughter.
The family have never had any trouble with the disease up until this year. Lisa said: “How do you try and explain to your child that his only animal of that particular breed has got to go off for slaughter? It has been very emotional for Kian because he is losing his first and only Dexter cow.
“The way he looks at it is he is losing a prized pet animal that we as parents cannot replace for him. To have to come home and tell him was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I just wish it had been one of my own animals and not one of his.”
The family have enjoyed success at this year’s agricultural shows with their Charolais cow and calf, claiming championships at the Liskeard, Launceston and Mid Devon shows. But as Paul said, the mood as of late has changed dramatically: “Within a fortnight we’ve gone from feeling on top of the world to the bottom, and that’s through no fault of our own that we know of. We haven’t done anything different than we did last year, the year before or the year before that.”
The Dexter cow first tested inconclusive in May, when the couple decided to do their annual herd test early in preparation for the Devon County Show. Following a second test last week, the cow again tested inconclusive, condemning her to slaughter. Kian, who will start at Launceston College in September, started showing in 2011 and has won championships at the likes of Holsworthy and Okehampton show and been placed at national shows with the five-year-old cow.
Lisa believes that there is a major flaw in the system, as the removal of blood tests could mean that perfectly healthy animals are being killed. She said: “They don’t do them anymore, so you are condemning an animal straight away that could be perfectly healthy and cannot be replaced.
“I quite agree that if the animal comes back and has got bovine TB then that’s fair enough, we should be shut down and you do everything you can to eradicate it, but then you’re still in limbo for three months before you can buy, move or sell anything.”
She added: “The farmers are penalised all the time without the Government looking at the wider picture. They are quite happy to undergo all these skin tests which, in my own opinion, are flawed. I know you can never have anything which is 100% accurate but the skin test regime needs looking at and needs changing, so farmers have more confidence in it.”
The crippling effect of bovine TB has now left a dark cloud hanging over the couple’s business, putting huge restrictions on where and what price they can expect to achieve for their pedigree stock. As Lisa said: “Here in the South West it is a struggle to sell pedigree bulls just because of where we are. But once you say you were shut down with bovine TB you just as well halve the price straight away.”
Paul added: “You ask anyone in the Westcountry, the prices we get for bulls down here would be half the price of what you could get when you move in to a different area.”
Paul and Lisa expressed their concerns in how Kian’s Dexter will be transported to slaughter. Lisa said: “She’s a well travelled animal but she’s only small. The two ‘local’ slaughterhouses for killing bovine TB reactors are in Helston and Taunton, so I think you’re looking at a welfare issue. This animal is condemned and you want it to be killed as soon as possible with the minimum of fuss and stress.
“We don’t have a choice of where our reactors are sent to, you are just told. I for one don’t want her to be driven all the way around the South West before arriving at the slaughterhouse. I want her gone and dispatched quickly and properly, like you hope any animal would be treated.”
Paul and Lisa are hoping that the cow’s suckling calf, which was too young to be tested on previous tests, will also be taken on the day to avoid further heartbreak for Kian.
The couple also believe that condemned animals need to be removed from farms at a faster rate, to reduce the spread of the disease. Lisa said: “Even though the animal is kept in isolation, they may still be coughing over a feed trough or a gate, where they could be leaving particles behind for another animal to come along and get it later.”
Lisa hopes that her son will be able to bounce back and go on to forge a successful career in livestock, but worries that the current bovine TB crisis will do nothing to encourage young stockmen such as Kian to stay in the industry. She said: “With livestock you get dead stock and they have to understand that this is what happens unfortunately. The most gutting thing will be if they slaughter her and she doesn’t show any signs of bovine TB or they don’t find anything from the cultures because you can’t explain the faults in the system to him.”
She added: “What is all of this teaching him now? Will this encourage him to go in to livestock in the future? He can probably go out and earn more money by doing something else that doesn’t involve livestock, which is sad because without livestock the country would be on its knees. This country needs farmers for the future and they need more like Kian.”
Information from: http://www.cornishguardian.co.uk/Launceston-s-Frain-family-bovine-TB-rule-changes/story-22712274-detail/story.html#ixzz3AH2kDjyp