Wednesday, September 13, 2006

'Cream' is the new 'Fern'.

In a squabble which echoes the case of Devon farmer Sheilagh Kremers and her Dexter calf Fern, a Cornish beef farmer from Looe, is challenging defra over his 'Cream'.

This time the animal is a twelve year old beef cow, whose Tb test was positive. Owner Mr. Arthur however is refusing to let her go for slaughter, claiming the test was not carried out properly. He has banned Defra from his land, meaning that the cow cannot be valued (at approx. £680) collected and slaughtered. However, SVS has in this case, refused to retest the 12 year old cross bred beef cow and stand behind the veterinary surgeon who conducted the test.

Quoted in the Western Morning News, Mr. Arthur said: "I am demanding that she is given a retest to give her the benefit of the doubt. I don't believe she is carrying the disease and I'm willing to carry this through."

But a spokesman for Defra replied: "We are aware of a case in Cornwall where a farmer has disputed the way in which a TB test was carried out on his premises.The State Veterinary Service has spoken to the local veterinary inspector who performed the test and are content that it was performed satisfactorily. A request for a retest has been refused as there is no reason to suppose that there was any fault or problem with the first test.The purpose of TB testing is, of course, to prevent the spread of the disease in cattle and this is why it is imperative that an animal which has tested positive is slaughtered."

When an animal is found to be reactor to the intradermal skin test, the vet who has conducted the test immediately serves a 'standstill' notice on the farm. No animals can be traded at all, except for direct slaughter until the whole herd tests clear at least once. And this is now the position of Mr. Arthur. He can sell nothing at all until 'Cream' is slaughtered, and, depending on the post mortem results, all his cattle have had at least one clear test. If the reactor cow (Cream) has lesions, or samples from her prove 'culture positive' then he will need two tests at 60 day intervals to get his herd clear again. Assuming there are no more reactors lurking he is looking at a standstill of at least two months from when 'Cream' leaves the farm, and possibly four. And the longer she stays, the longer this beef farmer will be unable to trade any of his stock. And the longer he will have no income.

Unlike Mrs. Kremer's Dexter calf, which was part of a much loved ' hobby' herd, Mr. Arthur is a beef farmer with over a hundred cattle. He needs to sell cattle for his living, and with a standstill on his herd, this he cannot do. His protest to Defra is therefore very different, and from all directions both trade and other income, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affiars have him over a proverbial barrel.

the Western morning News article quotes 'farmers' (they didn't ask us) as suggesting that the intrdermal skin test is "not 100 percent accurate". In fact on the back of the Kremer's case, Defra sent a few clerks out with both SVS and LVI vets to see if 'I's were being dotted and 'Ts' crossed. And shock, horror they were not. Nothing to do with the actual physical jabbing you understand, but 'vets were not filling out eartag numbers', and 'vets were not putting 5 digit Lelystadt batch numbers into 3 box batch codes, so that they could be read'.

As far as your contributers are concerned, they have utmost faith in the skin test, particularly as a herd test, as in the case of Mr. Arthur. And also its veterinary practitioners. Used around the globe, either with or without a comparable avian jab, this test is the primary tool for diagnosis of exposure to tb bacterium. Not full blown disease, but exposure to the bacteria. And as we have said many times, and as PQ's confirmed, in the absence of a wildlife reservoir, it is the only tool that is necessary.

If of course a country is daft enough to let Tb establish and flourish within a wildlife reservoir, then nothing is going to eradicate it. Not intradermal skin tests, gamma interferon, PCR or the man in the moon.

In this case, Defra cannot afford another 'Fern', and Mr. Arthur cannot afford a prolonged standstill of his business. 'Cream' has to go.

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