Thursday, May 03, 2007

Roxy's Reprieve

Ecstacy Journalist Roxy, the high profile holstein who tested 'positive' on a preMT, prior to exhibition at the Paris show has been retested this week.

We are pleased to report that she passed and, now the National Holstein show and Paris have both taken place without her, she and her 300 herd mates are released from restriction. Full story here


Anonymous said...

Hi Matt and all.

That's good news for sure.

I have had 22 cattle react to the skin test just last week, on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border. What chance do you think I might have of getting one retested in 2 months? Am I wasting my time asking? It's a cow I am keen to keep as I hand reared it.

Matthew said...

Tabular valuation was always going to have some serious casulaties, and some unusual winners.
So yup, you're wasting your time, unless you feel your vet was at fault in his execution of the test-or have a cute photogenic Dexter, or a really, really expensive 'casualty'.
We guess 'hand reared' (or 'home reared'? or 'home bred?')isn't on Defra's chart. Neither is 'organic' for that matter.

As 'George' said on his comment on our post re. the proposed challenge to this system, it is legalised theft. Compulsory purchase at a (very average) set rate.
But if farmers could get insurance then the question would not arise. Insurance companies are not offering TB cover if you have a)had a claim (and that's most of us on the site) or b)have not had insurance cover for TB before and happen to live in a lively area. They are not fools. And they explained to us a while ago "exposure to risk was too great". When I queried that, citing biosecurity / no bought in cattle etc., the chap roared with laughter. "You know I mean" he said, "those little black and white foxes".

Thanks for the comment. Good luck with getting clear. Is it Type 25 like in Bill Madders's cattle? Almost 80 per cent of your area is.

Anonymous said...

I guess it will be type 25, although no animals have been slaughted yet. The type matching is done on the culture samples I assume. I'm a bit further North than Bill Madders.
The compensation is OK, I suppose, as I had a number of older cows.
Just didn't want to lose the one's that don't want to kill me when they calve. I've not had a reactor since 1999, then only one 7 month animal, not confirmed by culture. Previously no reactors for 30 or so years. I would say from the difference in the size of the lumps we will have some VL's this time, if not, I will be extremely displeased. I test yearly and they were all fine last year and no cattle on movements in the last 5 years

Matthew said...

Good luck, and yes you are correct. If the animals are VL, samples will take about 6/8 weeks to come back from cultures. No 'On' movements of cattle for 5 years and annual testing, yet our Trevor, he of Badger Trust fame, still reckons it's all cattle movements and nothing to do with those little stripey things coughing and urinating all over the cattle feed. That in spite of our Minister for animal health - well some animals anyway - telling us that TB is endemic in the badger population.

Mr. Bradshaw also said that "international experience indicates it is not possible to contain and eradicate bovine TB if its background presence in wildlife is left unaddressed".

Which is quite true, so one may ask why has he done just that?

Anonymous said...

Exactly what part of the testing protocol did Roxy's owner successfully challenge? With forty years experience in testing our cattle I can say that every vet has a different way of testing and recording results. Having seen our dairy herd destroyed over the past two and a half years and now with our beef herd suffering reactors every 60 days, I have taken a particular interest in the testing procedures. They are in my opinion a shambles with considerable discrepancies between the EU Directives on testing, the protocol issued by DEFRA and what actually happens on the ground. I know some would accuse me of nit picking but once you have a breakdown the question of who is slaughtered depends on a mere 1 millimetre difference in readings, something that could easily be influenced by, for example, the length or otherwise of the animal's coat. With some vets giving a cursory scissor clip to, as they say, mark the spot of the injection, and not a proper clip as a precursor to cleansing the area and as laid down in the protocol, you can see how differences occur. In forty years I have never seen the injection area cleansed by anyone and it is quite possible that foreign bodies could be injected by accident and cause a reaction. Then there is the multiple use of needles without adequate sterilisation between animals. The protocol provided by DEFRA suggests the wiping of needles with dry cotton wool, between animals!!!!! I would be very scared if my doctor or dentist used such methods.If what I have observed is the norm then I think most people could object to testing procedures as not according to protocol.
We have kept detailed records of all our tests in an effort to find some rhyme or reason to who goes and who stays. Some cows have dipped in and out of the test figures and now appear clear. Some after dipping in and out have eventually gone under the three times and out rule. Others have gone from showing no symptoms at all to being full reactors within 60 days. I am not questioning that we have had bovine TB on the farm, although only the first of over 60 cows slaughtered has proved positive on lab cultures, but I do wonder how many of our losses are due to dubious testing procedures.
However, having said all this (and I could provide further examples of poor observance of protocol) I remain convinced that we will not see the end of the problem until TB is eradicated in the badger population.

Matthew said...

Thanks for that Anon 15.08, and yes we would agree with you all the way. The only reservation we have about such challenges, (Mrs. Kremer's Dexter, Fern was another) is that it throws the onus and responsibility directly onto vets for testing protocol, which is probably not always the most helpful direction to look for causes of reactions, as you so rightly point out.

As far as Roxy goes, it is our understanding that the site was not clip marked and the jab was (in some opinion) too low, and thus vulnerable to pressure from feed fence stall work. It is also our understanding, rightly or wrongly (and this not from the owner himself), that the measurements this time were the exact opposite to 60 days ago, leading some to question whether the guns were juxtapositioned and the avian was on the bottom.

We have been digging for other high profile quotes on the influence (folly?), of leaving a wildlife reservoir to infect and keep reinfecting cattle. Found quite a few so far, including some from John Bourne, he of ISG fame and Baby Ben, our own Minister of Animal Health..

Matthew said...

We would add to that previous observation that we cannot in the last 40 years - so we have been testing cattle for the same amount of time - remember occasions when the protocol of the skin test has needed to be challenged.
It is only as a last resort of sheer desperation that any anomolies there must be excluded to leave, as you have probably found, and as we did, that there really is only one culprit for the pernicious 60 day tests.
Sorry you are still having problems with the beef herd.

Jo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jo said...

I've only just come across your blog (linked from warmwell). many thanks.

We have a cow, Blossom, due to be killed next week. We have a closed herd (except we did buy in a calf from a TB free herd when one was still-born last year). Blossom was inconclusive twice and then she had the blood test and went positive. I wish I had researched the blood-test beforehand as I would have tried my best to refuse it. The government vet in Truro said she was almost certainly going to proof uninfected after slaughter and the inconclusive cows were probably the ones we should keep as they would be immune to TB.

It's now 6 weeks since the blood test and Blossom has just calved (we were surprised that this dangerously infected cow was allowed to stay alive to calf and that the vets said the calf wouldn't be infected and could drink her milk safely).

Now we are wanting our vet to retest her and were astonished to find that they are not allowed to do so. How did Roxy get permission to be retested?

If we succeed in getting her tested and she is inconclusive again, do you have the statistics on how many of the '3 inconclusives and you're dead'cows actually prove infectd at slaughter?

many thanks for your website


Matthew said...

Hi Jo,
Sorry about your cow.
Our information (from SVS vets) is that whereas 3x IRs on slaughter showed about 15 percent positive , (either VL or culture or both) when Gamma interferon is used, that percentage rises to 50 percent failure rate.

It seems to be picking up many more micobacteria as well as 'bovis'. (avian tb, johnnes, skin tb etc.)

With Roxy, as we said in a previous answer, it was the protocol of the test that was challenged, that is the way it was carried out by the vet, not the test itself. Also it helps if the casualty is independently valued at a much higher value than Defra are 'offering' as compulsory purchase money!

Defra would have let your cow calve in on 'welfare' grounds, as shunting heavily pregnant cattle around to slaughter is pretty grim.
As is dispatching the unborn offspring, for the slaughterhouse men.

There is not too much you can do, once the system clanks into action. Defra say 'jump', and you say 'how high'. I can't see you getting a retest on Blossom, after 2 xIR and the blunt instrument blood test.

It is only in the last couple of years when Tb casualties have ratcheted up from 'ordinary' farm stock to the organic smallholders with 8.5 Dexters, the Hindu sacred bull(ock) and high profile cattle like Roxy that the intradermal skin test, or rather its application, is being questioned at all.

Matthew said...

Jo, your comment was entered twice, so have removed one.
Matt 5

Jo said...

Many thanks for your reply, Matthew.

We have written to the SVS requesting another skin test. We will let you know the result.