A comment on the thread below gave us a wake up call to delve more deeply into the latest slaughter figures from Defra.
The comment we print in full:
"The latest bovine TB figures would appear to be good news!
According to the Provisional TB statistics for Great Britain released on 5 May 2006
TB TESTS CARRIED OUT (in the year to 31st March) increased from
1,649,543 in 2005 to
1,807,805 in 2006
Despite this the number of cows slaughtered as reactors decreased from 7731 to 5455.
I reckon that is about 29% DECREASE
However 6099 herds were under movement restriction on 31 March 2006 (due to a TB incident, overdue TB test, etc), almost half of these
(2994) restricted due to overdue TB tests!
More cattle tested, loads less reactors than last year, and half of the herds under movement restrictions due only to late testing.
Am I missing something, or is this very good news?"
Mmmmm. We really are not sure and for that reason had not explored this too deeply. That's not to say we were unaware of the figures, more listening hard to the many reasons flagged up.
Here are some:
*Defra will no doubt attribute the drop to pre movement testing, but as that only started at the end of March, any cattle involved will not have had a second 60 day test at the posting of these figures. In other words, it has not been around long enough.
*Cynical members of the farming community may have realised that when tabular valuations arrived on Feb 1st., both non pedigree and pedigree cattle values would be severely affected and up with that they would not put.
*Vets were telling us that the Dutch tuberculin, used as we exhausted UK supplies late last year, and mentioned in previous postings, was more sensitive. And in fact it contains 30,000 iu/ ml of bovine antigen compared with 25,000 iu/ml in the UK dose. (25,000 iu/ml of avian in both).
And now we have this amazing drop in cattle numbers. You ask us why. We don't believe in the tooth fairy, and think that the vets may have a point in their concern over the Dutch tuberculin.
The figures have been dropping (they say) since February. But that should have resulted in more reactors if the Dutch serum was more sensitive.
So we are asking some serious and pertinent questions of the specific antigen used and its concentration. Some serum doses are constructed on a broad base to cope at a low level with many strains, but others have a specific 'receptor site' antibody / antigen lock and only identify the strains they are set up to find. And if that were the case, not too many UK cattle wear clogs, or produce Edam cheese. But we return to the earlier veterinary concerns that the Dutch product was TOO sensitive. So if it has it changed, how has it changed from being 'more sensitive' to less? HAS it changed at all? Are they now saying it is not sensitive enough?
The label on the vials still say 25,000 iu/ml for Avian, and 30,000 ph.eur.u/ml for bovine)
Are other factors mentioned above all playing a part?
For the moment the Chancellor may be grateful for small mercies from the Department of the Environment, Food and rural Affairs. His Tb budget is dropping, but if this serum is failing for whatever reason to find reactors, then initially slaughterhouse cases will be seen to increase and eventually, the chickens will come home to roost with an explosion in undiagnosed cases. And that is the worst news.
Defra figures are here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tb/stats/detailedstats.htm
'Slaughterhouse' figures have almost doubled from 109 to 189, but the confirmed culture samples from these animals is stable at 68 / 71 respectively.