Friday, September 21, 2007

The law of unintended consequences

Or as we say - Sod's law. As the barricades go up once again on livestock farms across the country, cattle farmers are counting the cost of preMT in spades.

When FMD (Foot and Mouth Disease) was discovered on a farm in Surrey, early August, all livestock movements came to a halt. The outbreak, traced back to the Pirbright site operated by Merial Laboratories and Defra's flagship Institute of Animal Health is well covered by the indefatigable warmwell , but as a consequence of the industry 'shut down', cattle pre-movement tested for sales during August have not moved.

When trading between farms resumed for the briefest of windows mid September, many of these preMT tests were 'time expired'; that is to say the selling opportunity was breached as the testing had been done more than 60 days ago. Some farmers tested again that week - if they were lucky enough to get a vet at very short notice - only to be stopped again by the discovery of healed lesions and FMD antibodies in livestock at Egham.

Auctioneers and farmers are telling us that thousands of head of cattle are stuck on farms, needing yet another preMT before sale. But now, as routine autumn testing starts in earnest, veterinary practises are several personel short, having loaned vets to Surrey. And they are telling clients that they cannot cope with extra preMT until at least November.

September is the traditional 'hand over' time when farms change owners or tenants, and this too, is now put on hold, due to snarlups in the trading system. Late October / November, which is Defra's new window for loosening up trading restrictions, (assuming no new FMD cases pop up) is the wrong time of the year for autumn suckled calf sellers to sell. And the delay in moving stock puts horrendous pressure on dairy farms, regularly trading calves and newly calved milking cattle. And it comes at a time when wheat, maize and other starch prices are rising at an extraordinary rate.

So a double whammy of an FMD 'leak' in Surrey, combined with the costly, bureaucratic and cumbersome 'comfort blanket' of preMT has led to severe overstocking and consequential feeding and possibly housing problems, on livestock farms who are on annual or two year bTb testing regimes.

The eyes of the media are on Surrey, but the law of unintended consequences, is alive and kicking on thousands of cattle farms from Staffordshire to the tip of Cornwall.

6 comments:

Isabel said...

I like the redesign!

Matthew said...

Thanks! So do we.
Matt 5

Matt69 said...

same old repeated content along the same outdated thinking though

Anonymous said...

Your page heading calls bovine TB an epidemic.

Why not a pandemic - an epidemic that is geographically widespread; occurring throughout a region or even throughout the world

JuliaM said...

Very nice new 'skin' for your blog (which I've enjoyed reading for quite a few months). Light and less 'blocky' than the old template, it makes it an easier read, as well as a more attractive one.

I hope this redesign gets you a few new readers and linkers.

Matthew said...

Thanks folks.
Matt69. You have a delete button , we assume?

Anon. 1.11
Fair point. Ten years ago, GB had 7 or 8 'hotspots, but since the moratorium on badger control in 1997, they've grown, spread and joined up. Defra predict 20 percent year on year increase, in the 'absence of any new dynamics'.
The map on the latest posting is a disgrace, and yup, you're probably right - an epidemic will eventually, in the absence of control of all sources of bTb, become a pandemic.

JuliaM.
Thankyou. Peter North is responsible for the 'new clothes'.