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.