Sunday, August 08, 2004

Testing tales

As we pointed out in the next post, (Relocation / Tb takeaways), the NFBG is on record as accusing farmers of dodging Tb tests. 4700 of them actually. Is it true? Yes and No.

Defra figures indicate an increasing backlog of 'overdue' tests, but only a handful by a significant amount. Some will be requested of farms - with no cattle!
But whose responsibility is it?

Tb testing is totally in Defra's hands.

It will come as no surprise to farmers reading this site that if they request a test, the answer is 'Fine, but you pay'.

Every month, SVS (State Veterinary Service) send a list of herd Tb tests which (they say) are due, to the appropriate LVI vets, who arrange to test the cattle on behalf of the farmers, their clients.
If a farm is not on that list, then no test.
Even if the neighbours are down with Tb, no test unless it's on that list.
Farmers can ( and we know of very responsible ones who have) request an interim test, but the answer from SVS is "Yes you can, but at your own expense. You're not on our list".

Now this could be interpreted as somewhat dilatory on behalf of SVS disease control, plain work overload or a realisation that in fact cattle, even those with a skin reaction to Tb are usually not that infectious (see Irish story - cattle to cattle).

A lovely tale concerns a bull, traced by SVS as needing a check test. The new owner was approached in January for this single animal, and pointed out that he had arranged his herd test for February. After much argument, this was agreed.
The herd including the bull, were tested and all OK. But in April came another missive:

SVS - April "Test your bull"
Farmer: "He's been done, in February".
SVS : "No he's not. Test him or we close you down".
Farmer: "It's your money. Test him again then". (He passed - again)
SVS -June: "We need to test your bull......"

You get the picture? Defra shouts -farmers jump.

If a farm does appear on one one Defra's lists, and fails to test its cattle, then after a warning the herd is placed under movement restriction anyway - as was threatened to the owner of the bull tested 3 times.
But it's Defra's list that is paramount. And it's getting longer.

This site is not exactly going to make the delectable Mr. Bradshaw's day, by reminding him that his department tested 2036 fewer herds and 105,161 fewer cattle in the spring of 2004 than in the same period of 2003, while the incidence of Tb increased.

"But", I hear you say, "Mr. Bradshaw told us Tb was going down by 14 percent".

It is not.

From the spring of 2000, the number of cattle slaughtered has increased by a staggering 149 percent - up 25 percent a year. But new breakdowns (which then require consecutive 60 day tests - adding to Defra's 'list') are on target for our Ben's previous prediction. Up 20 per cent per year.

Not so much a lie, more a 'Ben-ding' of the truth.


Anonymous said...

With regards to the tb testing requests it would be helpful if the ministry were to consider the farmers calenders and when animals are turned out for summer grazing, before they send out their testing requests.

We have been suddenly been put on a 6 months testing programme which l can only assume is because we have had some local breakdowns again.

We were totally unaware of our change of status until we received the letter in the post one Saturday morning (16th May,04)whilst we were having a late breakfast. The reason our breakfast had been so late was because we had been up early getting our animals out to some rented pasture which is away from our farm, for their summer grazing.

The letter was from the ministry and informed us that we had to have our herd tb tested by late August. I immediately contacted our vet who told me that that they were also horrified to have received many requests for tests in the area just as the animals had been turned out, as many farmers were going to now have great difficulty in complying. When they questioned the ministry about this they were told that it was not their problem, the farmers will just have to get on with it.

Now the implications to us in respect to getting our animals back, which have only just gone out is laughable. For a start the rented land has no loading up area and so when they are returned we have to walk them back which means rounding up all our neighbours and friends to man the gates and tracks along the way, which is no mean feat. However, the this is helped by the fact that usual time for them to come back is November and at this time of year they are quiet happy to come home for the winter. But not when they have only just been turned out.

Also what happens if having done the test an animal goes down, will we be able to take the animals back to our rented pasure, and if not how do we feed them??

We are a small farm and so we earn our living by other means, as do most farmers these days. Testing is done at an enormous cost to us. With my husband having 2 days off work, employing help on the testing days, and getting all the animals together.

We are happy to do any amount of tests before they go out and of course when they are back in. But of course for us to request or suggest a date we would have to pay.

If only the letter had arrived on the Friday, what a difference a day makes!!!

dominic said...

a family near us who only have a very small paddock, rent three other small fields in two different villages, they have in total 2cows, 2calves and a steer, each year they get three notifications for tb tests (one for each of the three areas they have grazing) they have informed DEFRA every year that their cattle can only phisically be in one place at a time but still they continue to recieve three test notifications, last year one test was to be done at one of the locations on a tuesday in may and the reading was to be done on the friday, the day after they recieved this notification they recieved a second notification that they were to have another test on the monday following the friday reading, at one of the other locations, they contacted DEFRA to yet again explain that they only had (at that time) 3 animals and they would be tested as per the first notification and that there were no cattle at the address the second notification refered to only 2 donkeys, the answer was 'if you do not have your cattle tested at that site we will have to close you down' are there any humans at DEFRA or only robots?