Thursday, June 02, 2005

Pre movement testing : Sorry we got it wrong.

Never ones to mince words, we are nevertheless honest on this blog and when we get things wrong - hey, we can hold our hands up and say so.

So apologies from the team to Captain Ben and his cohorts at Defra.

What did we get wrong? On the post which highlighted the futility of pre movement testing (See To Test or not to Test - below) we estimated the cattle reactors missed by this exercise in Ministerial window dressing, at around 60 percent, given the latency of the test, and all other proposed cattle exclusions from it. Today however in launching the concept on the press, our Ben while committing Defra to the idea, told reporters that:

"it would reduce the number of outbreaks by 720 per year - about one-fifth".

One fifth? 20 percent? What about the other 80 percent??

So dear readers, having geared up our calculaters to inform you that pre movement testing would miss around 60 percent of the cattle reactors, we bow to Ben's superior mathmatics.

If the man says it will reduce new oubreaks by just 20 percent- and he assures us it will - then we apologise, we are contrite and repentant. It will not miss 60 percent at all, it will miss 80 percent of cattle reactors. The Minister says so. It will also cost an average of £9 per animal, for which the industry is expected to pay, with Defra providing the tuberculin (25p). It will cost the industry almost £3million, but Defra expect it save the taxpayer £10 million.

Using Ben's figures, if the tuberculosis problem was tackled 'in the round' it would save the taxpayer another £40 million, but we're not supposed to have worked that out..

How many 'schools'n'hospitals' is that?

Chief Veterinary Officer, Debbie Reynolds said:" Cattle farmers do not need to wait until Government makes movement testing compulsory. Farmers should take steps now to reduce the risk of spreading Tb".

Quite right. And if they have taken those steps - and they have not worked, farmers are entitled to feel seriously let down by the very Department empowered with the responsibility for 'disease control' are they not? And for those who have purchased cattle tested in line with the Chief Vet's advice, and find that the pre movement test will, in her own Minister's words have missed 80 percent of potential reactors? What then?

She's going to have some very difficult questions to answer.


Anonymous said...

A farmer in Norfolk wanting to sell his herd, asked his vet if he should Tb test them before the sale. His vet said No, there's no Tb in Norfolk. The cattle have not been tested for at least 4 years, and the farmer was worried about Tb because of stories about people moving trapped badgers into the area from the Westcountry.

Anonymous said...

As things are at present, that is good advice for the farmer (unless his test is overdue!) If any TB turned up then it would stop his sale. What about the buyers?
Well, 'let the buyer beware'. They can isolate them and have their own vet test them if they want to make sure. It would be at their expense though.

Anonymous said...

I agree - it is good advice for the farmer; but then again the vast majority of farmers simply aren't prepared to part with their hard earned subsidies to protect their herds from bTB.

Daisy said...

I paid to pre movement test a replacement herd after losing my cattle to FMD. They had two clear tests in Devon, but the badgers got them in the end. They got 67 of my neighbour's cattle too. Even if we do pay for tests like I did, if the wildlife have got Tb it's a waste of time and money.
ps. I'm a dairy farmer on a grassland farm - what subsidies are these? Have I missed out?

George said...

There are plenty of cases where cattle from clear areas (which remain clear) move to farms where there has been TB but where the previous herd has gone (farmers has moved/sold up/slaughtered because of Foot & Mouth etc). These new clean cattle then go down with TB. The problem is environmental - mammals within the environment.

George said...

But not cattle.
Probably not humans or other domestic animals.
Wildlife are the only other mammals left.

Matthew said...

The cattle are the lucky ones. With regular testing, it's rare that any lurking tuberculosis becomes 'chronic' enough to cause the suffering which we as farmers are now seeing in our badgers. If a domestic animal was allowed to get into such a state, quite rightly the owners would be prosecuted. The library pictures printed in the newspapers, of fat, playful, healthy groups of badgers will soon be the only record left, of how this animal used to look.
"Are you seeing what we're seeing?" alongside a picture of an emaciated, abscessed badger, might bring home the reality.