Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Matthew 1 is under restriction - again.

In September 2004, we introduced ourselves in a thumbnail sketch of each of the contributers in the posts Matthew Comes Out...:

"This site is managed by half a dozen farmers from Cornwall to Carlisle. Most have had their cattle herds under restriction - 2 are still in that position, and 2 reckon they soon will be. We're genuine carrot crunchers - not an 'ology amongst us - that's Richard's department!'

Matthew 1 moved a herd from Cornwall to the Midlands, sucklers and dairy. It was both pre and post movement tested, and was clear at the routine test a couple of years later. This nucleus was then moved back to Cornwall in September 1992, and joined by a small dairy herd from Derbyshire, which was 'closed' and had had no problems with Tb since accredition in the 1950's. A post movement test in Cornwall was all clear, but 4 neighbours were under restriction. At the annual test in late 1993, this herd had 2 Reactors and a dozen or more Inconclusives.

The farm had no cattle to cattle contact with neighbours, being in a triangle with woods and a main road as boundaries. There were a few deer, and several 'shared' badger setts with much field damage to crops. Over the next 18 months the herd had tests every 60 days which revealed a 'drip feed' of Inconclusives with a few being taken as 3x IR. During this time a BRO (Badger Removal Operation) was applied for by MAFF, and although granted, animal activists caused problems for the wildlife operatives and it took a long time to complete.

Cages were trashed or removed, and Matthew 1 was shown (by the wildlife team) where a cage had had a badger in it, and been moved to a field gateway, put down, and then removed towards tyre tracks of a 'vehicle' which was not in the ownership of either the team or Matthew. Did we say Tb takeaways?

Five farms were under restriction here, and the badgers were moved on. Where did they end up? Your place or mine?

After the BRO was finally completed, all 5 farms went clear within 2 or 3 tests. The farmers tried to keep the infected setts clear for at least 12 months, then slowly allowed badgers to restock, keeping a close eye on their cattle herd tests.

Currently the area is rumbling again, and Matthew 1 has had IR's at the last test. Something is stirring in the woods - and it's not bambi."

To bring you up to date with our SW Matthew's problems, the IR's 18 months ago went clear but as all his neighbours were under restriction again, Matthew was not hopeful that this situation would continue. And last summer he found a dessicated carcass of a badger behind some wood in a barn. That was not good news. A routine test in November revealed several inconclusives, all of whom were retested at 60 days. In January most were clear, but four were not and these were retested again last week. This test showed one animal completely clear, but 2 were 3 x IR and will be slaughtered. The fourth was a full blown reactor.

Matthew has maintained a 'closed' herd, - that is he has bought in no cattle - since early 1999. The farm is on annual testing and because of problems on neighbouring farms, Matthew has tested a couple of times at 6 months. So in seven years, the herd has had eight or nine tests.

The taxpayer deserves an explanation as to where this breakdown has come from methinks.

Our Ben, Rear Admiral Bradshaw may have slashed the farmer's share of the Tb budget, but Matthew's 3 cows are only the start of the gravy train. They will be transported to slaughter. Shot and postmortemed. Samples will be dispatched to VLA Weybridge for culturing. Paperwork will be generated to put a restriction order on the farm, and to give the result of the postmortems. If lesions are found, then the Public Health department clanks into action with dire warnings of infectious disease status, and offering visits from the Tb liason team, for X rays, tests and counselling. So many people employed you see. Local SVS office will then advise Matthew that his next test is due in May, and in 60 days time the whole rigmarole starts again. Matthew's herd is gathered up for another two days of jabs and readings by a Defra vet, or an LVI practitioner.

And unless and until the culprits have expired, that is the depressing merry go round Matthew faces for the forseeable future. And his cattle? It's Russian roulette for them.


Anonymous said...

You say "Matthew 1 was shown (by the wildlife team) where a cage had had a badger in it, and been moved to a field gateway, put down,"

Could you tell us how DEFRA knew the cage had had a badger in it when it was moved?


Matthew said...

Scratch marks in the earth below the cage, through the mesh. The badger in the cage had tried to dig its way out - mesh or no mesh. The marks were clear at the original cage position, and again at my field gate. Also a scent (urine) mark - territorial (or fear) Matt 1.

George said...

Badgers caught in cage traps often show damage to their claws where they have tried to dig their way out.
Well at least Matthew 1 will not have to worry about the pre-movement testing which starts next Monday, according to Defra today, see http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2006/060322b.htm.

Matthew said...

One of the Wildlife team told me that they often found cage traps (and badgers) half buried as they had tried to dig down to escape. Soft loamy soil had come up through the mesh, and the cage had sunk. I expect claws hooking into heavy mesh could cause a lot of damage to badger's feet. Gassing in the sett is far more humane.

Re. Pre movement testing: Thanks for reminding us George.
I understand that there is a map of the spoligotypes which confirms bTB DNA is unique to an area, and only in very sporadic cases is 'foreign' DNA turning up in a cow who has moved house. Sounds good though doesn't it?
Matt 5.