Thursday, February 22, 2007

The end of a dream..

Last week the
reported that the SIMA show in France was the venue for Worcestershire breeder and dairy farmer, Richard Bown. His 'Richhaven' herd was all set to take 10 top flight cattle to the show and sale as a show case for UK stock.
But a comment on the posting below has alerted us to devastating news for Mr. Bown, and the end of a dream for promoting his cattle. His top cow, Ecstasy Journalist Roxy, owned jointly with John Jordan, failed a TB test. Full story is told
FWi site

Mr. Bown commented "It could devastate our business. Breeding stock sales heavily outweigh milk sales for us, but with a TB reactor in the herd, our opportunities to sell have been decimated. It's also horrific news for the UK as it will be another two years before the next SIMA, limiting the chances of showing the best of UK cattle breeding to potential European buyers."

And, as if the prospect of losing the cow wasn't enough, tabular valuations ensure that Mr Bown will receive just £855 - a figure he described as a pittance, having been offered around £40,000 for the cow.

With none of her daughters in the herd and currently unable to flush embryos, Mr Bown also faces losing the breeding lines of a cow which was just one of two second calvers in the UK to classify as excellent last year.

"The government must get on top of TB in this country and pay farmers fair compensation, to compare a cow of this breeding and performance to one in a standard commercial herd is idiotic. We'll fight this all the way, not just for us, but also for others who may end up in this situation." He said.

(Thanks to for the link)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Matt 5 under restriction - again.... Not.

In the snail mail post this morning came a missive from SVS, putting our SW Matt's herd under restriction.

Now this is a little odd, as our Matt 5, has tested his cattle - as instructed, and on time - and had a clear test. He even has a 'withdrawal of restriction' notice from SVS, a TB 10 form served just two weeks ago, and yet here, giving him indigestion as he ate his breakfast, was another movement restriction notice.

We are often asked on this site why so many farmers are (allegedly) under restriction "due to an overdue test" etc. And we have checked with LVIs and SVS and been told that in the main this is a time lag of paperwork logging into the main computer. Very, very few herds are genuinely refusing to test their cattle on time, and if they did, we understand that they would be in breach of Cross compliance for the Single Farm Payment.

We are most grateful for sight of an SVS TB 2 Update missive recently sent to veterinary surgeons, which describes just this point concerning compliance Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs):
"SMRs comprise a selected number of Articles from 19 EU Directives and Regulations( is that all? - ed) which are applicable to farmers. [ these] ... cover objectives in the areas of environment, public, plant and animal health ... "

"Few food bourne zoonoses have clear statutory obligations, but TB is one of those that does and the inspectorate for this SMR thus ensure that both the statutory surveillance test and pre-movement test (preMT) (if required) are up-to-date."

The paper goes on the describe circumstances where both tests have thresholds built in before a farmer will suffer deductions from his SFP for non compliance with 'up to date test, nevertheless, the clearance of bTB is, as the paper says, a 'Statutory obligation' under several EU directives.

Well that's the test bit sorted as far farmers are concerned - but what about Defra's part in the 'Statutory Obligation' to protect public and (all) animal health following on from the results of said test? We fully expect another committee will fit the bill.

Anyway, to return to Matt's case. What's gone wrong? Cattle tracing appears to be the bug in the system. In August, Matt purchased some pre movement tested pedigree cattle, whose home herd subsequently went down with lesioned reactors. So, the cattle tracing team clanked into action and demanded Matt test these purchased animals. Quite right too, and he did. At his herd test at the end of October. But at this test our Matt had a reactor too. A post movement tested yearling in which tb was not confirmed, so Matt tested again two weeks ago, and the whole herd - including the 8 animals to be traced - were clear.

SVS sent out a TB 10, lifting movement restrictions, but unfortunately 'somebody' forgot to tie in the trace animals - so Matt received a 'You Have Not Tested These Cattle' notice, which prohibited sales from the farm from - er three days ago. Shame that, Matt sold a whole shed load of store cattle the day before yesterday.
No he didn't. Not really.

But we confidently expect Matt's paperwork will show up as a herd 'under restriction for non compliance with Tb testing' on Defra's figures for February 2007 - even though it isn't and his cattle - all of them - have been tested.

TB-free Trading status

On 20th November 2003, the then shadow minister Owen Paterson MP., asked our Ben, Mr. Bradshaw the Minister responsible for Animal Health and Welfare - well most animals, not all - what was the OIE limit of incidence of bovine tuberculosis needed to maintain 'Tb-free trading status'.

The answered, archived with Mr. Paterson's other 538 parliamentary questions on this site, is as follows;

20th November 2003: column 1205W [ 140308]

"The Office of International des Epizooties (OIE) provides expertise for the control of animal diseases.
Article of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health code states that for a country or zone to qualify officially as officially free from bovine tuberculosis,it shall staisfy the following requirements:

* bovine tuberculosis is notifiable in the country.

* 99.8 per centof the herds in the considered geographical area have been officiallly free from bovine tuberculosis for at least the past three years as disclosed by periodic testing of all cattle in the area to determine the absence of bovine tuberculosis.

(Periodic testing of all cattle is not required in an area where a surveillance programme reveals that 99.9 per cent of the cattle have been in herds officially free from tuberculosis for at least six years).

So how do we fare? Well, Ben kindly gives us the figures for 2001, 2002 and 2003 and we have grabbed the calculater and worked out the figures for 2004, 2005 and 2006 (just posted with pride of course, on the Defra website).

2001 2.3 per cent of herds were under restriction due a Tb incidence.
2002 4.1 per cent
2003 5.6 (PQ answer showed 4.8 per cent to September only)
2004 5.68 per cent
2005 6.26 per cent
2006 6.5 per cent

So there we have it folks. For the OIE - as determined by the intradermal skin test - Tb free status kicks in at 99.8 percent of herds Tb free, or an incidence of just 0.2 percent. And what do we record? 6.5 per cent. See: Defra website

Even Scotland cannot 'stand alone' on this one, recording 0.4 herds under restriction in the period to December. And while the 'West' region (that's anywhere south of Bristol, by the way) shows an instance from 25 percent of herds affected during the period for Glos, 22.5 for Hereford, 21.5 Devon and 18 percent for cornwall, other AHO's are flagging up 'hotspots' where a few years ago there were none at all.

Shropshire now has nearly 8 percent of its herds affected, Somerset, Avon and Wiltshire 8 - 13 percent and in the East, normally a region associated with no tb at all, the Leicester office has almost 3 percent of its herds affected, and is showing an extra 13 herds under restriction from last month. Reading is similar, with 'amplifying incidence' in Defra-speak and 1.3 percent incidence involving 43 herds.

Our colleagues in the north are increasing steadily too, with Lincoln, Carlisle and Cheshire recording up to 2 percent of herds under restriction, while in the old hotspots of Stafford (Derbys) and Stafford(Stafford) 9.2 herds are under restriction.

All in all, nothing whatsover to be proud of. And risking the wrath of the EU, who are quite capable of serving up to Defra, the veterinary certificate see
here drawn up in 2004, which allows the Commission to institute a ban - at their discretion on ..... whatever products they wish.

See: here

Sunday, February 18, 2007

SVS has already ruled out infected cattle...

A high profile Tb breakdown was reported this week on the farm of one of the industry's leading government advisors on ... bovine Tb.

During a routine test in december, almost 10 per cent of Bill Madders' dairy cattle were found to be reactors, and subsequently slaughtered, reports

This is another case for those who would defend the badger / villify cattle (and raid the taxpayers' purse) to explain. The article describes the State Veterinary Service investigation as "ruling out infected cattle as the source of the outbreak", and quotes Mr. Madders confirms that he is 99 - 100 per cent certain that a badger sett near his grazing ground is the problem. " Local SVS say it [the breakdown] is almost certainly the result of badger contamination of the pastures last spring", he said.

Mr. Madders now joins the rest of us trying to balance his books with cattle numbers wildly fluctuating, influencing milk or meat output and thus his income, against his business's fixed costs, accentuated by testing all his cattle every 60 days. The cause of the problem, as ever is ignored. Mr. Madders comments that the future of this family dairy farm is in doubt unless he can resolve the problem of reinfection.

"If we are going to keep going down, it becomes uneconomical because we cannot replace the herd witin the levels of compensation currently available".

Mr. Madders was the chairman of the preMT group, but is adamant that the policy should have accompanied with a parallel policy to control bTb in wildlife. "The consistent view coming out of the SVS is that until we do something about the disease in wildlife, it will get worse. It is the politicians we are up against".

"Unless we do get action, the whole country will be infected within a couple of years. In places like the North West, it is going to spread everywhere", he said.

There really is nothing like a herd restriction order, combined with several slaughter notices to concentrate one's mind is there? Our sympathies go to Mr. Madders and his family - and especially to his cattle of course - it's reassuring to have a high profile ally. Mr. Madders will give a background briefing of his breakdown to the TB Advisory group on March 1st. The group reports to Ministers and the CVO - who will probably then ignore the fact that Mr. Madder's farm is surrounded by motorways, rivers or arable land, has had no breakdowns at all in two generations and has been a 'self contained' herd for 20 years.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

New 'hotspots' emerge

Farmers Weekly reported last week on emerging new hotspots of Tb in areas where it had been unknown for years. ( That would be just like most of the contributers to this site, ten years ago then - ed.)

Sorry, no link to this, so we type it in full:

" Fears are growing that this spring might bring an explosion of bTb (in cattle) following last year's dry summer and changes to the skin test.
Devon farmer, Bryan Hill is certain that new hotspot areas are emerging across the region and will only get worse over coming months. "We have been Tb free for eight years but I expect it to come back this year following the dry summer."

With growing badger populations fighting over limited food resources, the weaker animals would have been more susceptible to disease, claimed Mr. Hill. They would have had to look for easier sources of food and water, bringing them into contact with cattle. "Tb takes seven to twelve months to show up on the skin test after exposure to infection, so I expect herds to start going down now".

Ben Bennett, DVO (Divisional veterinary Officer) with the State Veterinary Service agreed that Tb could increase this spring, as it had after previous dry summers. More cattle being tested before the intrduction of the new preMT rules on March 1st. could compound the rise, particularly if the (early) presence of of Tb had been missed last year with the change to Dutch tuberculin, which he fears maybe less accurate.

However, the new preMT rules were unlikely to have much impact on Tb in the absence of disease control in wildlife, said Mr. Bennett. "Cow-to-cow spread has not been a common occurance over the years. We are all aiming for a healthy population of cattle and wildlife but you cannot make inroads unless you deal with the disease on both sides".

One group of farmers in a new Tb hotspot is calling on all livestock farmers to write to their MPs demanding government action. Richard Turner, Neil Briggs and Alan and Susannah Hoskin's dairy herds near South Molton, Devon, all tested positive for Tb in mid January - for the first time ever.

A number of organic and pedigree herds, all have found the compensation to be inadequate; a particular problem for the Hoskins who have lost 32 of their 120 cow herd. A closed herd for the last seven years, the Hoskins' vet hailed their farm the 'most biosecure of any in his practise'.

"This is the biggest reaction we've ever seen and the only way it could have entered the herd was via a wildlife vector" said Alan Jacques from the Market Veterinary Centre, South Molton. "TB is a growing problem - and with the government just ignoring the reservoir of infection (in badgers) it is very difficult to see how we are going to to get it under control".


1 - 15 per cent in 10 years...

.. and that is not cattle Tb. An increase of 14 percent infectivetity has been recorded in the 'stable and undisturbed population' of high density badger groups at living under the wing of Dr. Chris Cheeseman at 'badger heaven' - otherwise known as Woodchester Park.

We are grateful for a link to the NFU for the following piece on this astounding confirmation that if we walk away and do nothing, tb will only get worse - in both badgers and cattle:

"Badger study reveals TB upsurge

Wednesday February 14 2007

"Research work in Gloucestershire which has revealed a dramatic increase in the incidence of TB in badger populations has provided the clearest explanation yet for a parallel increase of TB in the cattle population, says the NFU.

A long-term study* of a stable and undisturbed high-density badger population at Woodchester Park near Stroud, showed that the mean incidence of TB in around 25 social groups of badgers increased from one per cent in 1994 to 15 per cent in 2004.

It also indicates that badgers are more likely to become infective if the social group from which they come is declining in size, and that a stable social structure tends to reduce the likelihood of disease spreading within the badger population.

NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said the findings provided striking confirmation, first, that the incidence of TB in the badger population has increased sharply and, second, that any badger culling strategy would need to be intensive and thorough if it was to have maximum impact on the level of disease.

“It would be entirely wrong to conclude from this study that a do-nothing strategy is the way forward”, he said.

“We have been doing that for the past ten years and the result has been a steep increase in TB in both cattle and badgers. To suggest that more of the same is the answer to all of our problems is sheer madness.

“The lesson from this survey is that, for the sake of farming, the countryside and wildlife, we must stop this frightening increase in TB infection in badgers, and the only way of doing that is through a co-ordinated cull of badgers starting in the worst TB hotspot areas.”

Notes to editors:
1. *Social organisation and movement influence the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in an undisturbed high-density badger population. J. Vicente et al. Journal of Animal Ecology 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

Update on relocation of badgers.

We have covered the relocation of badgers extensively on this site, beginning with several PQ's to Baby Ben Bradshaw to ascertain what, if any, criteria applied when such actions took place, but also describing the 'protocol' of Pauline Kidner at Secret World - as described by herself. See August 2004 archive.

The answer to that was short and for hard pressed farmers with their cattle severely nailed to the floor, non too sweet. On Jan 6th 2004, Mr. Bradshaw replied to a question on any controls on the " movement of wild badgers for relocation", thus:

" is an offence to take, or attempt to take a badger from the wild, including for the purposes of relocation."

So far so good, except that our Ben also told us that of the cage traps set by Bourne's badger dispersal trial, 59 per cent were interfered with, and 12 percent went AWOL. Whether or not they were occuped at the time is not known.

Ben continued:
"As a native species, there are no specific restrictions under current law regulating where badgers are released once they have recovered. Normally, once fit to be returned to the wild, the badger will be returned to the location where it was originally found. This approach is recommended on welfare grounds due to their territorial nature, and also to avoid the risk of transmitting disease.""There is a voluntary code of practise covering rehabilitation and release of badgers..."

However, on 12th Feb. 2004, Col 1560W, Ben confirmed that
"Animal hospitals treating sick or injured badgers are not legally required to test animals for bTB before they are released from captivity".

This is with a test known as the 'Brock' test, which although reasonably good - in fact very good - on a positive response, is awful on a negative, having a sensitivety of only 40.7 percent.

Ben goes on to confirm ( 18th March 2004, col 433W) that if a 'disabled' badger is taken into care, then there is no legal requiremnent to notify DEFRA or to keep any records whatsover. And again on the 25th March " Animal hospitals treating sick and injured badgers are not legally required to test animals for bovine tuberculosis before they are released." A voluntary code of conduct applies, drawn up by the RSPCA, the Badger Groups and Secret World. Defra was not involved.

All this has come as bit of a shock to many. With an infectious disease endemic in the badger population (thank you Ben) and our cattle tested to distraction, why, may one ask is the release of badgers by various sanctuaries, individuals or well meaning organisations even contemplated?

Farmers Guardian covered this very well a week ago, (Feb 2nd issue) with Dr. John Gallagher describing the practise as 'folly', Prof. Tim Roper aghast with the comment "If government is contemplating culling large numbers of them, what on earth are we doing re-introducing them?" and Prof. Stephen Harris suggesting a rethink of the "protocol" - such as it is. Full story here.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Contributer update

You knew words wouldn't fail us for long didn't you? We ended the previous post with a reasonably polite (for us) expression of frustration at the incredible levels of infection found in trapped badgers during the 'Interim' strategy of 1986 - 1997. 'Interim' to us means temporary, or provisional. But ten years is an awfully long while to think about a strategy - about as long as John Bourne took to disperse that incredible 76 percent infection rate across Glos. and beyond....

A couple of weeks ago, we explained that testing cattle was taking up our time this month so postings would be sparse and we would let you (and our Trevor, who it must be remembered wished us well in the tests) how we got on.

Our East Cornish contributer is under a short voluntary herd restriction. He will test his cattle at the end of February in order to avoid having to preMT stock for sale in April. If he had tested in December, he would have had to fork out for a private test, and stress out stock for sale again 60 days later, so will do his whole herd test a tad later instead. We hear that quite a lot of December tests have been potponed by a few weeks for this reason.

Matthew 5, also in the SW has had a clear test. Very few lumps or bumps at all, and that after housing his cattle since October. He managed to keep those little black and white foxes out of the cattle sheds this year and is free to trade.

Our North Devon contributer has also had a better run, after housing several hundred cattle after reactors were taken in the autumn. A couple of inconclusives, but no reactors to slaughter. From former members of the old badger panel, we understand that this is a classic case of exposure to Tb at grass in the spring, found at a test in the autumn, which clears any reactor cattle out and by spring all should be well. (That didn't work with Matt 5's dairy herd as the little blighters were sharing the cattle feed in the winter and his problems - every 60 days - got a whole lot worse - especially after Bourne's rabid efforts and trashed traps and ...)

Staffordshire Matt tests this week. In snow and ice and wind and rain. Nice.

Herding Cats ..... again

In just over two weeks, the cattle industry faces another tranche of controls when pre Movement Testing (preMT) is rolled back to include all cattle over the age of 6 weeks if sold out of annual or two year testing parishes. The 'industry' led by the NFU have challenged both the basis of preMT, its cost and its ‘benefit’. They argue that the policy is disproportionate, with costs to farms far greater than the £7 per head predicted in the original data, and benefits (reactors found) smaller than was envisaged when the scheme was set up last year.

Chairman of the original preMT testing group Bill Madders, said that his group had argued for a proper analysis of the first year’s testing (in which only animals over 15 months were tested) before the age limit was rolled back and the policy extended. He also commented that the policy on its own was pointless … "fiddling while Rome burnt" ... , if no action was to be taken with the reservoir of disease in the badgers.

And there we have a problem. Leader of the new Tb advisory group Peter Jinman is all for extending preMT, with or without a wildlife management strategy. As is the BCVA (British Cattle Veterinary Association) - who are at least consistent in grabbing with both hands veterinary opportunities like …er testing cattle.

So once again the ‘Industry’ has split. And the cats are scattering in all directions, as shown at the TB stakeholders meeting in London last week, when CEO of the National Beef Association, Robert Forster argued vehemently for the extension. He is quoted as saying that to continue to fight against the March 1st. extended preMT regime, would "jeopardise the prospects of a badger cull", and he refused to sign the stakeholder statement. As did the BCVA, who as we said, are at least consistent in their search for veterinary opportunities.

One may ask what makes Mr. Forster so sure that Defra will deliver their part of the industry package this time round? This is a game where the industry is playing football, but Defra holds a cricket bat. Different game, different agenda. To survive in this murky world, honesty and straight talking are probably the best tools in the bag. Certainly not the spin and wheeler dealing we have come to expect and with which our 'industry' leaders cannot hope to compete.

The latest package to which the BCVA and NBA could not put their names, we show below;


"The meeting was deeply concerned at a further deterioration of the TB situation, which had resulted in a higher proportion of herds in England and Wales being under TB restriction during 2006 than in any other year in modern times.
It reiterated its view that TB will only be brought under control by a concerted programme of action embracing all aspects of the origination and spread of the disease and put into effect through a genuine partnership between the industry and Government.
With that in mind, it agreed the following points as being supplementary to the seven point programme of action agreed at the meeting on August 20, 2006:

* The Defra Secretary of State should be invited to visit farms in a TB hotspot area at the earliest opportunity in order to gain a full understanding of the dislocation, cost and suffering to people and animals alike being caused by TB and the measures associated with it.

* The meeting took due note of the very strong feelings expressed by farmers from the TB hotspot areas at the disproportionate and unfair additional burdens that would be imposed by the extension of pre-movement testing to younger animals and the likely consequences for the critical mass of the dairy and beef sectors in the areas concerned. The majority view was that the NFU should make a last ditch attempt to have the extension of PrMT to younger animals postponed until measures to address the wildlife reservoir of disease were introduced. In the meantime, it was agreed that farmers should be encouraged to provide as much factual information as possible on the cost, business disruption and accidents to people or cattle caused by the extension of pre-movement testing to younger cattle, so as to inform the Government’s ongoing review of the policy.

* The rules governing exempt markets and exempt fattening units to be reviewed urgently so as to make them easier to operate and thus ease the burden on farmers and markets in TB hotspot areas.

* Tabular valuation having been shown to be manifestly unfair, the Government should reintroduce individual valuation without delay.

* The TB Advisory Group and other Government advisers to be strongly recommended to visit the Irish Republic, so as to learn from the apparently highly successful anti-TB strategy that has been implemented in that country."

It was 18 months ago when the ‘Industry’ presented government with a three part ‘package’. Then, the whole industry agreed (reluctantly) that cattle controls and tabular valuation should be introduced – but that to be concurrent with badger culling if Tb infection proved to be from a wildlife source.

Well, we know what happened then don’t we? Quid pro quo? Not a bit of it. Defra took the quid, (farmers paying for preMT and getting rubbish money for some seriously undervalued cattle) but did not deliver their ‘pro quo’. Instead we had that infamous consultation document, which had the RSPCA and the Badger Trust in overdrive, the former later being found guilty by the Advertising Standards Authority of running a campaign which was described a "unsubstantiated and untruthful". The latter still twittering on about 14 million animal movements, and shadowing the ISG’s badger dispersal trial reports like glue, even though the one of the trials’ managers is on record as saying what those of us unfortunate to have been involved knew – it was rubbish. And all the data arising from rubbish, is just that. Rubbish.

see our postings on the RSPCA's master of understatement:
on the Krebs 'badger dispersal trial:
and Paul Caruana's statement to the EFRA committee:

But what is so disappointing is that far from uniting, the ‘industry’ has as many egos to support as ever, and while that continues, absolutely nothing will be done to control infection in the badgers. The Minister is not going to look in Appendix D, p.78 of John Bourne’s 138 page Fourth report to the Bern Convention, which put figures on the level of infection in badgers prior to Krebs in 1997… but we’ll give them to you here.

According the ISG report, in the years 1986 -1997, when the ‘Interim’ strategy was operating – or not, depending on one’s point of view – the level of infection found in badgers cage-trapped during the fraught and difficult badger removal operations in response to confirmed outbreaks of Tb in cattle were:

Up to 21 % in the West Cornwall triplet, 24% in East Cornwall, 25% in Devon, 37% in Cornwall/ Devon and the Devon / Somerset triplet. In North Wilts, up to 40 % of trapped badgers were found to be infected, in Hereford 51% and in Gloucestershire, the figure was up to 57% with Broadway (Glos) topping the league table with 76% of badgers found to be infected with Tb.

An infection level of up to 76 per cent? And that was in the period 1986 – 1997. Ten years ago and before the badger dispersal trial had a chance to ‘peturbate’ the problem. And John Bourne still wants to prove Tb transmission is cattle to cattle? And some stakeholders relish more cattle controls, when they know that up to 76% of the badgers are infected with Tb? Words fail us.