Wednesday, September 15, 2004

R.I.P Swampy

Yesterday prize winning Hereford bull Hustyns Swampy made headlines for the wrong reasons, at the (premature) end of his illustrious career.

Bred by the Hawke family near Wadebridge in Cornwall, Swampy was 1 tonne of sheer beauty.

He had been judged Breed Champion at 2 consecutive County Shows and television archives showed pictures of him, wearing his rosettes and sashes with pride. The photographs of him yesterday showed a proud, dignified and gentle giant of a bull completely oblivious that his life on Cornwall's lush grass, would be prematurely curtailed and within 24 hours his carcass would confined to a OTM skip, and a meat and bone heap. Why? Because he came into contact with a vicious, nasty little bug which had no business on his dinner plate in the first place. Mycobacterium bovis. Bovine Tb.

After a Tb test in July, 13 animals have been slaughtered from Mr. Hawkes' herd.
Swampy was reported to be an Inconclusive reactor, but as lesions were found in the first animals to be slaughtered, then a more 'severe interpretation' of the intradermal test is enforced by Defra and Inconclusives with a reading higher than +3 are slaughtered as well. And that included the bull.


Mr. Hawke farms an effectively 'closed' herd. He has purchased just 5 animals in the last three years, one bull and four heifers to expand his herd's bloodlines. All have been post movement tested at least 3 times. All are clear. Some of Mr. Hawke's neighbours are also under restriction. But M.bovis didn't fly in with the man in the moon, to infect these cattle. The farm has seen an explosion in badger numbers and badger trails run through 3 farms and back into forestry.

Press headlines emphasised the Compulsory Purchase value put on the bull, of up to £30,000.
That is the wrong target.

Despite having a 'closed' herd with no cattle to cattle contact, Mr. Hawke is about to experience the 'benefits' of being under Tb movement restriction. (see archive)
Swampy's value was as Breed Champion - the best in the West - and a shop window for the Hawke's herd.
The family can sell no stock from his bloodline, or any other. Only cattle for direct slaughter.
They can enter no more shows, to promote their herd.
Mr. Fred Hawke, who has been breeding Herefords for 40 years, said "I'm devastated - this bull is part of the family. I can never replace him."

Mr. Hawke expected to 'shed a tear' when Swampy left the farm for his final journey. Not to glory, rosettes and applause, but to the slaughterhouse. He castigated governement for failing to check the growing badger population which he blames for the outbreak.
"Nobody is doing anything about it (other than kill cattle) it's like they couldn't care less" he said.

The Hawke family have lost one tenth of their herd to Tb, and they expect to lose more at the next test due at the end of the month. "Years ago you didn't worry, but now it gives us sleepless nights. The compensation is not the issue, it is the loss of an irreplacable animal"

South West NFU director Anthony Gibson commented on the bovine Tb situation "This would not be happening if Government would get a grip, and do something effective to tackle it"

They have Anthony - another Committee.


1 comment:

Ruth Burrow said...

What a tradegy for a very successful South West beef herd? Just when are white collar beaurocrats, within DEFRA start to understand that money is not everything to a breeder? As in the situation of Mr Hawke, generations of careful selection of genetics 'make' an outstanding bull as Swampy, and to have him destroyed on the back of a Government who do not care what happens to the cattle industry in the UK, but only consider the political implications of votes, on any action taken to lessen the ever increasing level of badgers and TB within their social groups. It is becoming blantantly obvious that Ben Bradshaw will not take any action before the General Election, and just allow the problem to escalate, infect more herds and devastate more families such as Mr Hawke and his family.
As Matthew writes, Swampy made headlines for the wrong reason. It should not have neen the monetary value that hit the media, but indeed, the loss of such a magnificent animal, and his future breeding potential.
The following quote is so true:-
"There are more votes in a dead badger, than a dead cow"