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The Health and Safety Aspects of Cattle Testing

 Added by  Sally
 2 Apr 2010, 7:38 PM

Who really cares about the real health and safety risks to farmers of increased cattle testing? The majority of those involved stress the importance of testing - many of these people have never experienced such testing themselves. For those of us with cattle, it is a time consuming and hazardous business, even with the best handling equipment - a luxury which many farmers cannot afford. The TB blog from agricultural student, Helen Ross, on the NFU website at www.nfuonline.com/Our-work/Animal-and-Plant-Health/Bovine-TB/TB,-the-plague-of-the-countryside, sums it up: "The procedure of testing the cattle in itself is a stressful experience. Cattle have to be rounded up and injected which not only causes stress for the animals but for the farmers as well. On our farm alone in the past year's TB testing we have had people getting knocked over, crushed ribs, a dislocated shoulder and this is with a good cattle handling system I would hate to have a poor system. After the two initial injections comes the agonising two-day wait to see if the animal has reacted to the TB injection. You look at every cow and ask yourself, has that reacted? Is there a lump on the cow's neck? The vet comes back and the cattle yet again have to be rounded up and any lumps on their neck are measured to see if they have reacted. On our farm we had two reactors this time round, which stops us moving animals on our farm until we have had two clear tests. Although this causes disruption to our business, the worst part of it is seeing an animal which milks well and appears healthy have to go to be slaughtered."
From Rethink bTB blog 23/04/13 (http://www.rethinkbtb.org/blog.html#home)
Health and Safety of Bovine TB Skin Test
Testing cattle using the existing, archaic and imperfect skin test, necessitating penning/testing on two different days each time, can be a significant health risk to those farmers and testers involved. In January of this year a dairy farmer (just 55 years old) was crushed by a bull as he tested cattle for TB on his Carmarthenshire farm. There was another similar incident in Ireland in April 2010.
Following a Freedom of Information request to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), over the last 4 years there have been seven reported incidents involving serious injury during bTB testing. However, the HSE, in its response, warns that there may be more as it relies on the mention of the term 'TB' in the report searches.
We know too that there are many more accidents and injuries, involving both farmers and testers. However, many of these do not come under the jurisdiction of the HSE as this body does not deal with the self employed. The self employed are apparently responsible for their own safety. In many areas testing is now done annually and for those with herd breakdowns it can be as frequent as every 60 days. Penning and testing cattle, particularly those not used to being handled regularly, is known to pose significant health and safety risks but these are currently ignored. The situation would not be tolerated in any other sector.
Bovine TB is not a public health risk because milk is pasteurised. A control, rather than eradication policy could be devised, based instead on cattle vaccination which would necessitate minimal handling. Testing could then be utilised for high risk herds only, eg raw milk herds.

Very sad news today as I see another farmer has died as a result of TB testing a bull. The dairy farmer, David Stephens, 55, was killed by a bull at Llandyfaelog, near Kidwelly Carmarthenshire during TB testing on his farm.
A vet, who was with him, raised the alarm and Mr Stephens was airlifted to Morriston Hospital but he died from chest injuries and a punctured lung.
The Health and Safety Executive is investigating alongside Dyfed-Powys Police.
Mr Stephens, who died on 22 January 2013, supplied milk to Dairy Crest and lived with his wife Ann and their three children aged between 23 and 30.
A police spokeswoman said: "He was airlifted to Morriston Hospital where he later died of his injuries.
"Swansea coroner has been informed."
A spokesman for the Swansea coroner said they were awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination ahead of opening an inquest next week.
Info from www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-21194060

Interesting quote from Bill Wiggin (North Hereford) MP at debate in Westminster Hall on 13/9/12 which highlights the risks of bTB testing.
'I am not sure whether it is on the record, but I own and breed Hereford cattle, and one big problem for dairy farmers is knowing that the product that they work so hard to produce is grossly undervalued by their customers. There is also another problem. Imagine how Robert Wiseman would feel if one of his beautiful black and white lorries was crushed every time it failed its MOT, or Sainsbury's or Tesco had their building bulldozed if it failed a health and safety inspection. That is what happens when a farmer fails a TB test.
Probably no hon. Member has taken a TB test, so I will explain what it is like. It is quite easy on day one when a farmer puts his cattle through the crush because the cattle do not know what is going to happen. The vet comes along and very carefully and professionally gives the cattle two injections, one for avian TB and the other for bovine TB. The cows do not think much of that. Three days later, the vet comes back to feel whether the bovine bump is larger than the avian one and whether the cows have been exposed to tuberculosis. The cows do not know that they are not going to get jabbed, so they do not want to go through the crush and will fight to dodge it, and that, I am afraid, makes the whole process extremely dangerous.
My little boy, Jack, who is only seven, got kicked. My cows weigh 900 kilos, which is quite a lot more than me, and when they want to go somewhere, they will go. It is tough for farmers, and they get hurt. At least two of them have been killed in the time that I have been a Member of Parliament. '
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19303154 Veterinarian injuries associated with bovine TB testing livestock in Michigan, 2001. One of the few reports on the subject but for vets, not farmers.
The abstract from the article is below.
Testing all the cattle in an entire state with a uniform procedure for each animal affords an opportunity to relate human injury data to a known number of animals handled while carrying out a standardized procedure. Our objective was to describe the type and incidence density of injuries associated with TB-testing a large number of cattle herds, and to delineate the various factors associated with the risk of injury. A survey was mailed to all veterinarians (N = 259) who had completed at least five official bovine TB (bTB) herd tests in Michigan in 2001. We collected data regarding basic demographics and health status, work experience, veterinary specialty, and practice information. Each veterinarian was also requested to complete a separate injury questionnaire for each injury received while TB testing livestock in 2001. Accurate addresses were found for 247 eligible veterinarians, 175 (71%) of whom returned the survey. Thirty-six veterinarians reported a total of 53 injuries (10 major, 12 minor and 31 self-treated). Hands (29%) and legs (21%) were the anatomic locations most frequently injured, with sprains/strains (30%) and abrasion/contusion (30%) the most common types of injuries sustained. The overall incidence density of injuries was 1.9 per 10,000 animals tested. Female gender (RR = 3.3), being employed by the government (RR = 4.5), and smoking (RR = 6.0) were significantly associated with a higher rate of injury. Significant colliniearities were found between some risk factors associated with an increased rate of injury and participants thought 81% of their injuries could have been prevented. These results are explained by the administrative structure of the bTB testing program in Michigan, and the changing demographics of the veterinary workforce.
We have been looking into just what research there is regarding the risk of injury from testing cattle. The Health and Safety Executive have a leaflet 'Safe Cattle Handling Equipment' (http://www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/pdf/cattlehandling.pdf). They also have a leaflet on 'Handling and Housing Cattle' Agrilucture Informstion Sheet No 35 (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ais35.pdf). In another part of the website the question is asked (http://www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/cattlehandling.htm) ' Are you struggling with cattle handling?', the
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Inspector, Tony Mitchell, provides a view from the safety perspective.
'On average, two workers are killed and over 100 injured each year by cattle', says Mr Mitchell. There are also large numbers of minor incidents and near misses that we do not hear about and many serious accidents are not reported to HSE. For example, there have been several studies into livestock accidents which suggest that up to 24% of livestock producers are injured every year. 'And what is more,' he explains, 'if you have had one injury you are three times more likely to have another'.
Some time ago the Scottish Executive and SAC published a report, 'Handling Beef Cattle; identifying research needs and knowledge transfer opportunities to improve human safety and animal welfare' (http://www.sac.ac.uk/mainrep/pdfs/cattlehandlingreport.pdf).
Good handling equipment is expensive. Cattle are rarely predictable. Increased testing means increased handling.

Sally (Guest)
In April 2010 an Irish farmer died after he was injured by a bullock on his Co Longford farm.
The man, named locally as Frank Kiernan from Moyne, north Longford, was injured when cattle were being tested for bovine TB. He was rushed to the Regional Midlands Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The Health and Safety Authority will investigate the death, which is the tenth so far this year in Ireland, only one less than in the whole of 2009. About one third of fatalities on farms involve livestock. I wonder if any of the others were associated with bTB testing?

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