Friday, March 24, 2017

New, old , new, old.

We have remarked before, that with TB non control, the more things appear to change, the more they remain the same. And so it seems with the introduction last August of a new farmer and veterinary package - [link] from APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) which includes a map of TB breakdowns surrounding the one to whom it was posted.

Introduced for new TB breakdowns in the High Risk and Edge area last August, this is far more detailed than the badger Activist's Road map - [link] produced a couple of years ago after a change in the Data Protection statutes. We showed it in the posting below, with an 'X' marks the spot on Mr. Durose's farm.
Today, Farmers Guardian - [link] have more on this story.

The building blocks of outbreaks in the area surrounding his farm over the last four years, were as shocking as they were indefensible. Mr. Durose's herd had been clear of TB and on annual testing for decades.

In the leaflet, the new mapping system is described thus:
d). TB breakdown map - included on the final page is a map showing the geographical location of the holding and geographical data that is held by RPA (i.e. an outline of owned and/or rented land that is registered against that CPH with RPA). [snip - explains helpfully, that short term grazing may not be included.]

This map also indicates the location of other recent breakdowns within the area surrounding the holding of interest, along with details of any genotype(s) isolated from them (if available). This information can give an indication of the incidence, weight of disease and identified M.bovis genotype(s) present within the localised area around the breakdown under consideration. This can help in considering the risk of locally acquired versus imported disease.
But how 'new' is this idea?

 In 1972 a local vet at the Truro office began combining computer datasets with his curiosity into the origins of local TB outbreaks. All badger post mortems were logged, together with those from cattle as they became available. Spoligotypes and locations were painstakingly listed to show the depressingly familiar outwards spread we see today.

These maps are now part of a collection in the National Archive - [link]  who describe them thus:

The datasets record the incidence of tuberculosis among cattle in Great Britain from 1977 to 2002; and record of incidence of tuberculosis among badgers, as potential carriers of disease, from 1972 to 1998. The system links data showing incidence of TB to computer-generated maps; the original name of the database was 'TB Maps & Stats'.
On seeing Apha's 'new idea' Dr. Roger Sainsbury, whose painstaking work over more than two decades was for Ministerial internal consumption only, remarked wryly:
I wonder how many farmers will be shocked to see how much ‘Big Brother’ knows about their activities?
and he also noted that:
We always used to ask questions to get this information. It occurs to me that they (Defra / APHA) must be very sure that their info is 100 per cent.

As we now live in a society thriving on litigation, we hope it is too. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Carnage - again.

Four years on, and from the same area of the north Midlands comes another harrowing tale of carnage on our dairy farms.

This was the story we told then, of the 2013 'de-population' - [link] for Louis and Gillian Bothwell..

And the latest herd to feel the carnage of Defra's hammer are Guernsey cattle belonging to Mr. Durose who farmed  not a million miles from the Bothwells, and built a business producing A2 milk and cheese. - [link]

BBC Midlands Today has the story, on a short video which can be viewed here

 Mr. Durose now has no milking cattle, no income and a wish list from our Ministry before he can be licensed to restock. Most of it dealing with keeping badgers out of the way of his stock.

By order of the Secretary of State.

And this is a screen grab of the interactive TB map of the area around Mr. Durose's farm. more than 20 outbreaks surrounded his farm in 2016.

None are resolved in 2017, but more are added.

Below is a screen grab of the Defra map from the video clip.

Every yellow square  is a cattle farm which has been under restriction in the last four years.

His farm is surrounded.

Twenty years of non-eradication of zoonotic tuberculosis from its wildlife maintenance reservoir has done really well, hasn't it?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Going to the dogs?

This week has seen another wake up call for the Ministry overseeing - or not - the eradication of zoonotic Tuberculosis, a Grade 3 pathogen affecting any mammal, from Great Britain. However, while Defra, APHA or whatever they call themselves today, continue to ignore the difference between a 'maintenance reservoir' of disease (badgers) and its spill over (other mammals), dead reactor cattle may build up, but the level of so called 'environmental' infection also increases.

 We have mentioned many times the under reporting of zTB in alpacas, and our last posting - [link] seems to have woken up the British Alpaca Society, if not non-members of that particular clan.

 This week the press has jumped on dogs as a 'carrier'. A pack of hounds belonging to the Kimblewick Hunt, and housed near Ayslebury - [link] have been badly infected with the disease, and as usual, media with large axes to grind are having a field day.
Leading the pack, is the Ecologist - [link] with a second swipe in that paper from the League Against Cruel Sports LACS - [link] written by Jordi Casamitjana who is Head of Policy and Research. Inevitably, the League  has decided that zTB is nothing to do with badgers at all, and it is hounds which are riddled with the disease, spreading it across our green and pleasant land.

 The fact that the author is anti hunting has nothing to do with the slant of piece of course. And musing quietly here, if dogs (which, unlike cats, are pretty resilient to zTB) are to be put under the spotlight, what about footpaths, and dog walkers, often with multiple charges and some operating a business 'exercising' packs?

The story was apparently started by a group calling themselves Hounds Off - [link] and this piece is informative rather than over sensationalist. But most media outlets carry the paragraph below which we read with a degree of irony:
“The implications of this outbreak are huge. We already know that restricting the movement of animals in the countryside is the only effective way of controlling bTB .... []
Yup. We restrict cattle. Nail 'em to the floor, and shoot anything that has a sniff of mycobacterium bovis, while offering the maintenance reservoir of this disease the right to roam. Very sensible.

 But we digress... This is a library picture from the Kimblewick hunt's website, on a happier occasion.

Meanwhile we too are interested in just how 25 - 40 hounds, depending on which website you look at, have contracted zTB. All at the same time. So we looked up the rules on 'passive surveillance' of the disease on the APHA website - [link] And it seems that any suspect lesions in fallen stock ending up in knackers' yards or hunt kennels must be notified to APHA - just as in abattoirs.

We also learned that only meat on the bone (flesh) from under thirty month old cattle should be fed to hounds, and any other bits of dubious provenance are stained and incinerated, with records kept of tag numbers, kg of waste and even ash from the incineration process.

So if the source of this sad outbreak, does turn out to be a break down in the fallen stock recovery, rather than any other source which can be established, the rules and regulations are already in place.

 If however, the source remains unclear, then a moribund badger riddled with zTB has been the downfall of more than one canine investigator. - [link]

And then there was this case - [link] of an severely infected mum, her daughter and a euthanized dog. The dog and the adult both having been confirmed with the same spoligotype of zTB as is found 'locally'.

What is becoming more apparent with every passing year of prevarication by Defra / APHA on this subject, is that through their animals, zoonotic Tuberculosis is now affecting different groups of people. And they may not be as accepting, compliant or pragmatic about their losses and restrictions as cattle farmers appear to be.

 Edit: If more information comes to light on the case of the hounds in Aylesbury, we will report in due course.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Alpaca TB - warning notice

We have been offered sight of a warning notice which has been circulated to BAS (British Alpaca Society ) members by email, but does not appear on their website. Yet.
 Perhaps it ought to.

Entitled BAS Advisory Notice, we reproduce it in full:
As some of you may be aware, there has been a confirmed bTB breakdown at a large herd and is currently under investigation by APHA . We are unable to name the herd as we have not yet had their permission to do so.

Whilst there are breakdowns or suspected breakdowns in existence several times a year in the camelid community, this particular breakdown is significant due to the size of the herd.

While the BAS has no more rights than individuals to access ‘personal’ information from government agencies due to data protection, we are active in assisting where we can and where the affected farm(s) permit. After another herd confirmed disease from alpacas purchased from what is now believed to be the ‘source’ holding, all farms that were known to have had contact were informed back in December 2016 and some have already been tested clear.

Due to the time it takes for APHA to prove disease, there has been a delay in APHA tracing and contacting farms that have moved or purchased alpacas from the infected source holding. Earlier this week, the BAS were contacted by APHA to help with the tracings. The BAS were able to confirm the three farms that had purchased registered alpacas from this ‘source’ holding in the last year and those farms have all been contacted by BAS representatives and are being contacted by APHA now.

We would urge our members to re acquaint themselves with our guidance regarding biosecurity and contact us if they have any concerns.

Please note for the reasons already stated we are unable to give out details unless we have the express permission of the party/parties concerned.

Clearly the BAS only have records of animals which have been registered. If you have purchased, moved or have bred with males from a holding where you think there may be cause for concern and have not yet been contacted by APHA, then we urge you to please contact the BAS or APHA and we can help guide you on the most appropriate course of action. It is imperative that any alpacas that have had dangerous contact with a herd that is known to have bTB, are thoroughly tested in accordance with the 2016 Camelid bTB Testing Scenario Document and Flow Chart which can be found on the BAS website.

With regard to shows, and in particular the upcoming National Show, our bio-security measures at shows have been approved by the BVCS and APHA and shown to be robust over many years; bio security is of paramount importance and the last thing any of us want is to knowingly allow alpacas to shows that have come from dangerous contacts.

We have been closely monitoring the situation and will continue to do so.

If you have any questions at all please contact us either through, or

Thank you for your time and attention in this important matter.

BAS Board

Now this outbreak must have been rumbling for some months (it takes APHA two months at least to confirm m.bovis by culture) and back tracing of pedigree animals is still ongoing. So the timing of this notice is startling, appearing just a couple of weeks before their National Show - [link] on 25th and 26th March.

NB. This picture was snapped at a previous 'National' alpaca show.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Brexit, UK exports and zoonotic Tuberculosis

One of the reasons given for leaving the clutches of the European Union was red tape. Happily, a bonfire of regulations will occur shortly. But this will be replaced for the farming community by another pile of Regulations - [link]

 Entitled REGULATION (EU) 2016/429 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL, this 208 page pdf contains over 300 Directives or 'Articles' concerning animal diseases, animal welfare and, with relevance to the UK, imports from third countries into the EU.

 It comes into force on 21st April 2021.

Article 9 (Annex IV on p. 177) is particularly relevant, as are Articles 229 / 300 which end with this gem:
"The Commission shall be empowered to adopt delegated acts in accordance with Article 264 concerning derogations from paragraph 2 of this Article, limiting the possibility for Member States to decide from which third countries and territories a specific species and category of animal, germinal product or product of animal origin may enter the Union, where necessary due to the risk posed by that specific species and category of animal, germinal product or product of animal origin."
That sounds suspiciously like a European Beef Ban to us. And we've been there before, have we not?

And the European Union is not without form on the thorny question of zTB . In 2004 when Russia - [link] was sabre rattling about quality of imports, zTB was used as a stick to beat three EU states. These were listed as Spain, the Republic of Ireland and the UK. To offset that threat, the EU drew up an export note, which, like the Beef Ban was a cascade of products ranging from milk powder, through gelatin to hides for tanning. In fact anything and everything - [link] that can be produced from a bovine animal. There is more clarification. [link]  on the this as answers to our questions were dragged from the Department of Trade.

And our apologies for the broken links in the first piece on Russia. As readers probably know, the Defra website is pretty rubbish at the best of times, and articles / notes and information are archived very quickly. In this case, the export document. But it exists. It is in someone's drawer and with herd TB incidence now over 10 per cent in the UK, for sure it will be used.

But if no one else is on the case, the FUW (Farmers Union of Wales) are up to speed. Yesterday's lead article on the Welsh lobby group's website, giving details of  Tb in Wales - [link]  and well written by FUW's policy director, Dr. Nick Fenwick gives a potted history of TB non policy by successive political leaders. It then points out the risks to exports from the current levels of TB in herds. Dr. Fenwick concludes:
The situation would be bad enough under normal circumstances, but with Brexit looming, competitors in other countries have one eye on our TB status, and how it might be used to their benefit – and our detriment – in trade negotiations. The clock is ticking.
And that point is made today by our sister site, with emphasis on exports of agricultural products and including several paragraphs from those new EU Regulations - [link] to which we refer above.

 Nick Fenwick is quite correct - for eradication of zTB and the security of our exports, the clock is ticking.

'Build that Wall'

News has been trickling in over the last couple of months of a cow in Canada, slaughtered in the USA and found to have lesions by the US meat inspectors. Cultures - [link] subsequently confirmed zoonotic tuberculosis.

We won't go into too much detail on this story, leaving readers to follow these links - [link] for in depth reporting from Alberta. And our grateful thanks to the cattle farmer who sent them.

 But one snippet caught our attention.
 zTB is practically unheard of in Alberta, and as such treated very seriously. Tracing is going back five years, and so far just 6 cattle have proved positive to zTB - all with the same strain of the disease.

After culture and spoligotyping (strain typing of the bacteria) it was found that the strain of zTB in these cows had not been found in Canada before, and was genetically very similar to a strain predominate in Central Mexico. The latest information from Alberta tells us that:
Genetic analysis has shown that the bovine TB organism from the infected cows is not the same as any strains detected in Canadian domestic livestock or wildlife or humans to date. All six currently confirmed positive cows have the same strain of TB. This strain of TB identified in these confirmed cows is closely related to a strain first found in cattle in Central Mexico in 1997.
Mexican herdsman with a cough? Just a thought.

And please, don't tell President Trump.

(No) Common Sense and COSHH

COSHH- or the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health - is a legal requirement of those employing people in any capacity, or the  letting of property - [link]
 It involves a detailed risk assessment to identify and remove, as far as possible, risks to health from hazardous substances.

With holiday lets, often gas appliances are the most likely suspects, with carbon monoxide emissions the 'hazardous substance' to be avoided at all costs. Dodgy wiring and badly maintained flues are all on the hit list for COSHH - [ link] But so are any 'substances known to be injurious to health'.

So the recent experience of a holidaymaker staying in a self catering cottage has shocked us.

 Upon entry to the property he noticed a stainless steel bowl and four cans of dog food.

"I don't have a dog" remarked the visitor.
"Oh, they're for the badgers" replied the hostess, glibly explaining that part of the 'countryside experience' she offered, was to encourage local badgers and for guests to view their 'dining table' - which doubled as the property's patio. 

Now the conversation became a bit heated, as her guest was a veterinary surgeon, well versed in zoonotic Tuberculosis and its primary wildlife hosts. So when the cottage owner proceeded to tell him, with all the arrogance of the totally stupid, that zTB had nothing at all to do with badgers, and it was a cattle disease, he was able to inform her with the degree of certainty that his qualifications bestowed, that badgers were the main wildlife host of zTuberculosis in this country.

 And for good measure he added that as her cottages were situated within one of the worst hot-spots for that disease in the country, not only was she putting her guests at risk, she was breaking every COSHH rule in the book, by doing so. And as such had laid herself wide open to litigation should any of her guests, contract zTuberculosis  from a badger bowl which she had provided, swilled in tepid water along with the family's breakfast dishes.

This is one of those occasions where words really do fail us.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Going in circles, or another Trojan horse?

As Wales prepares to implement yet another round of cattle measures, bearing down hard on compensation levels and 'risks' of restocking in the post EU Brexit era, some stirrings can be heard in the farming community.

 Enough is enough ... reports Wales on line - [link] with the strap line pointing out that cattle controls alone, will not halt TB.

The Daily post - [link] gives a thumb nail sketch of what is to come for Wales' remaining cattle. If not for the infected wildlife they have to live alongside.

And thus we are reminded of what the chairman of the ISG (Independent [it wasn't] Scientific [ not unless you mean political science] Group [maybetold the EFRA Committee - [link] in 2007.
“What we are saying is that badger culling in the way it can be conducted in the UK, we believe, cannot possibly contribute to cattle TB control, and in using the word ‘ meaningfully’ what we mean there, is that if it is the only inducement that would encourage farmers to co-operate fully, and introduce effective cattle controls, it could have an effect”.
This was questioned, somewhat more politely than we would have done, by the EFRAcom Chairman.

He said:
“Can I make quite certain that my ears did not deceive me a moment ago, when you said with your almost impish smile, “Left to its own devices, culling is not the silver bullet but if it induced some other activity as a quid pro quo, it might have a role to play?”. Is that what you are saying to me?”

Prof. Bourne (left) replied:

“It would be most unfortunate if that happened but that is exactly what I was communicating to you, because farmers have made it clear they will not co operate unless they can kill badgers. Farmer co operation is absolutely essential to get this disease under control. It will be appalling thing for us if farmers were given the opportunity of knocking off a few badgers, just to get their co operation.”
So as the cattle measures, futile as they are, rain down on us, think of John Bourne's words, delivered with a smirk, that if farmers can knock off a few badgers, they will accept more draconian cattle measures.
Quid pro quo. Where have we heard that before?.
And will we accept them? Will we really?

So laid on the line,  imagine the map of England and Wales, with small disparate chunks of a few hundred sq km. allowing farmers to cull badgers for six weeks in a year, for a four year period only. And paying for the privilege.

We've snuck the map from Facebook, but you get the picture. It's a minute effort. Tiny.

Is it Bourne's Trojan horse?

 Compare those tiny patches on the map above to the area now affected by zoonotic tuberculosis, stretching from Cheshire in the north to the eastern borders of the Midlands, through Wiltshire and Dorset in the south and right down to Lands End in Cornwall - for England.

And of course,  the whole of Wales, conveniently missing from Defra's latest picture postcard.

 Meanwhile the Farming Unions are not happy with the spin being put on the 36 per cent increase in Welsh cattle reactors. Farmers Guardian - [link] has the story.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

In the UK, we shoot the canaries, don't we?

We frequently refer to our regularly tested cattle, as 'canaries in the coalmine'. These tiny birds were taken into coal mines as an early warning system. Toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, methane or carbon dioxide in the mine would kill the bird before affecting the miners. Signs of distress from the bird indicated to the miners that conditions were unsafe due to the presence of gas.
So, if the canaries fell off their perches, it was time for the miners to leave. Quickly.

If cattle react to the skin test, they are sending a message that the bacteria which causes zoonotic Tuberculosis is around in the environment and available, not only to tested sentinel cattle, but any mammal..

From the NZ Farmer comes a much more sensible way of reacting to these 'biological markers' - [link] for a disease which may affect cattle or deer in a country which is heading for TB Free status in the very near future. In an area of New Zealand thought to be clear of TB, the disease has been found in wild pigs.
A survey of Marlborough's wild pig population is helping determine the extent of bovine TB in the region. Pig hunters have been contracted by OSPRI and Landcare Research to hunt in specific areas and collect pig heads for TB analysis since July. Lymph nodes under the neck of the animal can show that TB was evident in the region. Pigs contract TB by scavenging dead animal carcasses which have been infected, but do not pass on the disease themselves.
In New Zealand, the wildlife vector of zTB  is the brush tailed possum, so by checking wild pigs for disease, the authorities conclude:
"When TB is present in possums in an area, it is highly likely that it will also be present in local pigs. If we can pinpoint where disease is, we can be specific about possum control."
And the New Zealand authorities do 'control' those possums. Whereas in the UK, we test the canaries ( cattle) and then shoot the messenger. Leaving the wildlife vector to run wild and free. Farm to farm.

Very sensible.