Sunday, August 01, 2004

Tb Beneficiaries

Defra's consultation paper to help them formulate their 'new' Tb strategy asked who were the main beneficiaries of their current 'non- policy'.

Predictably opinions were polarised, with organisations directly concerned ( farmers and vets) citing Government and the tax payer, while the NFBG named livestock farmers as the main beneficiary.

Both are wrong. But there's a lot of mileage in this 'polarisation' and in keeping it rolling, a beneficial employment opportunity. Cause a crisis and create a need?

A huge industry has evolved around the exponential and predictable rise of bovine Tb in our cattle herds. What other industry predicts growth of 20 percent a year?. The Tb budget is now in excess of £74 million annually, but in the last couple of years less than one third of that went to farmers for 'compulsory purchase' of their reactor cattle.

60 - 70 percent is absorbed by scientists and universities, laboratories, the ISG and Bourne's Kebs trial, vets and valuers, hauliers and abattoirs, forums and think tanks and ever more 'strategy' consultations.

For the benefit of non-farmers visiting this site, or farmers who are expecting bovine Tb but are not yet involved, we'll itemise the 'beneficial costs' involved in being under restriction. Defra value and pay for a 'reactor' animal, which they then slaughter. The 'restricted' farm is then locked into 60 day testing of all animals, and (with very few exceptions) NO movement of cattle is allowed off the farm except to direct slaughter. This continues until the herd achieves a clear test.
With constant re infection from wildlife the restriction can be indefinite.
The consequential losses for a farm under restriction include:

Testing cattle 6 times / year instead of once (or as directed by Defra). 2 days per week x 6 = 12 days labour for up to 4 people. Up to over 300 hours / year. No charge.

Stress on cattle during confinement and testing. Weight loss on beef cattle, and growing dairy heifers is estimated at about 7 - 10 days each time tested. Six / eight weeks loss of growth in a year. No charge.

Abortions and early embryonic death in pregnant cattle. No charge.

Loss of her calf and breeding value of pregnant cow. No charge.

Extended calving index for dairy herds and barren suckler cows. No charge.

Trauma and even death to animals resisting penning and needles. No charge.

Injuries to stockmen / vets involved in handling these cattle. No charge.

Slaughter of unsaleable calves @ £5 - £7.50 head to knackerman. No charge.

Occasional sale but at much reduced price of calves, under Defra Tb licence to avoid shooting. No charge.

No sale for store or breeding stock or newly calved dairy/beef heifers/ bulls except under very limited Defra license and at much reduced prices. No charge.

No entries into Agricultural Shows or specialist sales for exceptional breeding stock. No charge.

Cancellation of farm sales, delayed divorces, extended farm tenancies. No charge.

Overstocking on home (Tb restricted) holding, extra cattle need extra food, housing and quota. No charge.

Loss of volume and profile bonuses on level milk payments from milk buyers. Up to 1ppl. No charge.

Failure to fulfill suckler cow numbers for EU scemes = penalties. No charge.

Replacement stock, especially with rare or endangered breeds of cattle unavailable. No charge.

Bio security risks of bringing in replacement cattle from other herds to a 'closed herd' under restriction. No charge.

Insurance premiums for Tb up ten fold, with cover reduced by half for exsisting policies. In the event of a breakdown cover will not be re instated, and new policies as rare as hens' teeth. 'Exposure to risk is too great', the man said. Most livestock farmers now uninsurable for Tb. No charge.

Sale of beef to 2 high profile buyers, restricted. "We'd rather not take them". No charge.

Sales of 'green top milk' or unpasteurised cheeses / yoghurts - banned. No charge.

Sales of all raw milk into food chain from 'reactor animals' in just over a year- banned. (As yet detail undefined - see post above) No charge.

And farmers are thought to be 'beneficiaries' of all this?
At an average valuation in 2003 of around £1300 per animal slaughtered - Yup, we're just queuing up to join.

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