Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Changes to Defra's 'disease control'.

Farmers with herds under Tb restriction will notice several changes to Defra's procedure this autumn.

We've mentioned the new 'valuation' form - BT 1 (Rev. 7/04) which requires a signature from the owner of cattle to be Compulsorily Purchased BEFORE valuation. When the valuer (whom he cannot now nominate) has pronounced sentence, having signed the form, the owner has no right of appeal.

Even this cursory type of valuation we suspect will be 'culled' after Christmas as Defra's new Banding system comes into force, after the usual cursory 'Consultation' excercise. SVS field staff say that they do not expect to implement the new system on farm - which leaves a YTS on minimum wage to tick the appropriate boxes.

This is what he / she will have to work with:
(Only a proposal at present - comments by Christmas Eve)

Male or Female. (That shouldn't give too much trouble - or will it??)

Beef or Dairy. (Could be tricky on dual purpose breeds)

Pedigree or Non Pedigree.
(We have been told that Breed Societies are not accepting new member's cattle for registration if those animals are already under Tb restriction. New herds can only be accepted and registered when clear. The new form BT 1 excludes grading up animals from 'pedigree' prices . They will be classed as 'non pedigree'. So Defra have cottoned on to animals for the 'chop' becoming ' pedigree' in an afternoon, using unclassified data)

Age. Under 2 months.
2 - 10 months or 2 - 12 months.
10 - 18 months or 12 - 24 months.
over 18 months or over 24 months.

Pregnant or non pregnant aged 18 months / 24 months or over.

Calved, with or without calf at foot.

This age banding appears too wide to be accurate.

In further cost cutting measures, Defra are relying totally on BCMS (British Cattle Movement Service) identities and not attaching their own uniquely numbered 'Reactor Tags' to animals once identified, inspected and valued. (We reserve comment on this one.)

The Cleansing and Disinfecting notice normally handed out at the same time as notice of intended slaughter, is now 'discretionary', depending on Post mortem findings. Only if open lesions which SVS consider capable of onward transmission are found, will a form be issued.

It has been wryly pointed out to the editors that given the amount of m.bovis bacteria being plastered across cattle grazing areas, feeding troughs and buildings by infected badgers, should farmers take the C&D notice literally, they would fall foul of the Environment Agency for polluting the whole area with highly toxic chemicals!

A most extraordinary response to a highly infectious zoonosis.

Kill as many cattle as you like Mrs. Beckett, but that bacteria is still there - and it's coming to a farm near you.


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid the farming industry needs to take a reality check when it comes to bovine TB ..... numerous independent reports have proven that taxpayers are footing the bill for massive over compensation claims from farmers. At long last DEFRA is getting a grip and sorting this problem out. The way the farming lobby are kicking up a fuss is all the evidence anyone needs that farmers have had it too good for too long on compensation.

Further, independent evidence from Reading University prooves that a large number of farmers are actually making a profit from being under TB restrictions. Again it is us taxpayers that are footing the bill. How can this have been allowed to happen ?

With DEFRA ministers not expected to release the results of the Krebs trials until 2007 surely the farming industry must now demonstrate that they are taking every precaution to prevent TB spreading and reduce the burden on the taxpayer. That means pre- and post movement testing of all cattle in high incidence areas (and yes, farmers should pay for this - not us taxpayers) and doing everything they can to tighten on farm biosecurity (including farm health plans).

Anyway, apologies for the rambling nature of this post. I don't expect anyone to reply (afterall, very few replies are ever posted on this blog making me think hardly anyone ever reads the posts in the first place)

Matthew said...

Thanks for the post, and yes we do try and reply.
We do not know who reads the blog - but you did!

Reading university report showed that 25 percent of dairy and 35 percent of beef 'appeared to profit' from being under restriction. But no one except Reading know the details of their case studies. Whether they used purely cattle values or the knock on consequential whole farm figures.

If you have the time, please check out the authors of this site, Matthew 1,2,3,4,5 & 6.
Our herds are / were totally closed with no cattle being purchased - but we still lost cattle to TB. Also check in archives some of the 'advantages' of being under restriction, with a wildlife reservoir which farmers are not allowed to control.

We agree with you that the taxpayer should not be disadvantaged, but Tb is a very serious zoonosis, notifiable to Communicable disease section of Public Health Dept. It is their rules which are followed + OIE (Office of International Epizootics).

Succesive Government policies have so santitised control of wildlife vectors that we as farmers are now uninsurable for this disease. And neither keeping a closed herd or top notch bio security has kept my herd clear.

The sort of biosecurity I've heard being undertaken by one farmer is horrendous.
He has surrounded a badger sett which was in the centre of his farm with wire mesh sunk 8 feet deep, and 8 feet high. He has not touched either badgers or sett, but 50 badgers inside the cordon are starving.
That is bio security in practise.

I prefer healthy badgers and healthy cattle.

A final point has to made that if farmers are squeezed into a financial corner, then the type of 'bio security' I have described above will unfortunately become more widespread - if they wish to stay in business. In fact Mr. Bradshaw has said 'Fence them out', without we suspect knowing what that means in practice.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Matthew. You have raised some interesting points.

The Reading University research looks pretty conclusive to me and finally kicks into touch the much quoted NFU statistic that the average cost of a TB breakdown is £36k. You'll never get a farmer to say it in public, but we all know some are profiting from having TB.

Yes, TB is a zoonotic disease, but the risk to humans is minimal. The current Government Strategy says that protecting human health is the top priority (it remains to be seen whether protection of human health remains the top priority in the new revised Strategy). There are only a handful of bovine TB cases in humans. With that in mind why are the Government spending £88m per year to control a disease which is of a low risk to humans ?

Matthew said...

You'll have to ask government why they are prepared to spend £88 million per year - or £2billion in 10 - NOT controlling Tb in cattle.
From where I sit, it's because they see more votes in a dead cow than a dead badger - but after 4 years under restriction with a closed herd , I'm cynical..
Also many of those involved in this growth industry - 20 per cent / per year - (see Beneficial Crisis on the site) are not going to give up their income quietly.

As you say, the risk to humans from milk / meat is minimal if not zero. That said any animal with Tb is a potential threat to humans, and a report is sent to Public Health, Communicable Diseases if cattle are involved.

The editors are aware of reports from the USA, who are alarmed at the growth of wildlife reservoirs of TB in countries like the UK, and point out that such countries may well be storing up trouble for the future in human beings.

The gist of the argument is that by allowing Tb to flourish in the badgers, the bacteria will be much more available to 'spill over' into humans, either by direct contact or via domestic pets (see The Cat's out of the Bag). But as Tb is a slow growing organism, the effects of this exposure will not be felt until the carrier is in need of a big immune response to say cancer, pneumonia etc., when the Tb lesions will break down and be a secondary killer. They point out that Aids is not the biggest killer of humans, Tb as a secondary is - either of m.bovis or m.tuberculosis.

A friend read your post, and asked us to point out that until his herd went under restriction, he had 10 pedigree bulls entered for the Perth Bull sales. These animals, superbly bred would have been worth anywhere between £3-10 thousand each as breeding bulls. They are now unsaleable as when a herd is under restriction, the only option to move cattle off farm is for direct slaughter, except on the rare occasion when they can be moved farm to farm with a Defra license and much reduced value. Another breeder has had a contract mated pedigree bull refused for entry into an AI stud, for international use because it "has been on a holding where Tb has been confirmed". He's thrilled with that - which is what I meant re Reading's figures. One animal or whole farm profit / loss?.

The taxpayer should not have to pay a single penny, if Government would tackle the wildlife reservoir of Tb as well as sending lorryloads of cattle to the skip. Doing one without the other is crazy and expensive and out of farmer's hands.

Post movement testing at 2 months after the move is more sensible than pre. and within reason, the farmer should pay. If the herd has a large throughput of cattle then more frequent Tb testing is probably a good idea anyway, and then Defra pay.

I put this suggestion to Defra 7 years ago, as 'date of next due Tb test'. but as with many 'sensible' suggestions, (not my words - Professor Steve Harris's) it was ignored.

exoSETT said...

How refreshing – somebody that disagrees. How different – maybe unique -somebody that believes that the Krebs Trials are worthwhile and something other than a fundamentally flawed time-consuming exercise; something other than a - so far - seven years excuse by this government to accommodate the likes of the sad single-issue NFBG which is in total denial and the members of the Political Animal Welfare angry brigade; something other than an attempt to postpone the day that a countrywide badger cull (government sponsored or otherwise) is necessarily carried out.

With the exception of this web site - the current bovine TB issue is based neither on facts nor on science - ; rather it’s based on politics and political bias and it has been made an issue of the soft loony (sloons?) left versus the right. The starting point is – in a perfect world – “NO BADGER – NO bTB” – didn’t Lord Zuckerman say that in 1980? That’s where we should start! That’s the reality check we need!

The writer’s comments about ‘compensation’ are na├»ve; the CAP has existed for many years – it’s not the (British) farmer’s fault that it exists and that it is the way it is. And didn’t New Zealand successfully move to a non-subsidy set up? – but then again NZ politicians are serious – they are also treating the bTB wildlife reservoir appropriately – by proactively getting rid of it! You see the British taxpayer gets what he pays for; if government pays subsidies and compensation – then farmers can’t kill sick badgers. If you don’t – then the farmer kills the sick badgers – simple. It’s your choice ‘anonymous’! What do you want? You can’t have both!

So because the government admits to failing to control the wildlife reservoir of bTB (in primarily badgers) (6,000 cattlle slaughtered in 1997 – 30,000 in 2003) it, of course, feels it necessary to compensate the farmers whose businesses are suffering directly. Bloody hell - the anonymous writer will be soon be wanting a ‘right to roam’ everywhere and to ban fox hunting: Oh! – I nearly forgot ………


With interest I read the comment by Anonymous about the cost to the Taxpayer with regard bTB, perhaps someone could tell me the cost to the Taxpayer of Illegal emigrants,social scroungers,the proposed Government funded Gypsy camps and the ever increasing cost of MP`s expence accounts to name but a few.
Yes there are bad apples in every bowl, and I expect Farming is no exeption, there will be no doubt that a small minority will have made money out of TB but, the majority has sufered from the disruption to their business, the loss of expensive and some times irriplaceable blood lines and the cost of labour of repeated cattle testing.
The answer is simple, If Two species of animals can contract a disease then both can spread it, if you only test and cull one species and let the other roam free you will never rid this country of TB, and until we do Farmers SHOULD receive compensation.