Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Spill over - now llamas...

Several be-suited members of the EFRA (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) committee donned wellies and perched on straw bales for a trailer ride tour, to see for themselves the interaction between livestock and wildlife on SW farms affected by bTb. Member of the committee, Geoffrey Cox, MP said:

"I believe that my colleagues were deeply impressed with the dignified eloquence of those who spoke to us about their experiences and shocked by the destructiveness of the disease on herds and on farming livelihoods".
Mr. Cox, whose constituency is one of the most badly affected in the country, had urged his committee colleagues to see for themselves, the devastation caused by the disease, Western Morning News reports.

The committee visited a farm in Shebbear which has been under restrictions for several years, learning first hand from farmers and local vets of the impact the disease has had, and is continuing to have, on farming families and businesses.
Mr. Cox was one of the main badgerers questioners of Prof. Bourne when EFRAcom examined the ISG final report into the 10 year antics of the RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial. The committee will, in due course prepare a report for government, and Mr. Cox continued:

"The message that must come out of our report is that the Government can no longer postpone the urgently needed action to control the disease in wildlife, which Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - accepts is an important factor in the spread of infection here in Torridge, by a locally targeted, humane cull in heavily infected areas."
We have spoken many times on this blog, of the inevitable spill over casualties of this debacle. Shooting the messenger does not get rid of the problem. And following the Torridge visit, the EFRA committee members moved on to a llama farm in Mid Devon where half of this unique breeding herd of animals has been wiped out by Bovine TB.

This is breeding herd of llamas, selling valuable stock for export which have to be TB tested before they can travel. A 'closed herd', it has over the course of a very few months, lost half its stock to bTb.

Crucially, the committee members heard at each farm visited, that not only had the farmers operated bio secure 'closed herd' policies,

"...they had found sick or dying badgers on their farm before the outbreak of infection."
And this is the bit that our friends in the animal protection charities do not like. Up with pictures of the reality of tuberculosis in their chosen species, they will not put. But as the disease runs riot through the wildlife, more and more spillover becomes inevitable. As the llamas found, to their cost.


George said...

Interesting to note that TB is potentially a real problem in llamas and alpacas. It can cause quite severe disease with few symptoms, I believe, and infected animals could pose a serious risk to in-contact humans. The tuberculin skin test seems to be rather unreliable in camelids. And where do they get it from, I wonder…
Increasing cattle controls certainly won’t do anything to help with this aspect of tuberculosis.

Matthew said...

It is our understanding, that tuberculin testing is only routinely carried out on cattle. Camelids are not routinely tested.

This herd was discovered in a pre-export check of breeding animals, we think.

We have heard of another instance of this, which the owner now avoids by only selling onto the UK market. No export - no test.

As these expensive, fashion statement lawnmowers are becomg more common, perhaps their owners should be made more aware of the risks their 'investments' face.

Matthew said...

Matthew (in black letters - no relation) 10.23:

No, the problem is not solved.
No pharmaceutical company is going to spend £millions on a product with a limited market. See the projected uptake and underwrite of BTV 8 vaccines. Minimum of 100 million doses to cover R & D costs? And that is pan european. Tb vaccines for cattle are a very minimal market. Most countries world wide have eradicated the disease with test / slaughter policies.

It's only daft countries like GB who leave wildlife resrvoirs of Tb to fester, that would even think about this. It's a non starter.

Vaccination of cattle would stop our export market of breeding stock stone cold dead, and probably be used as a anti marketing campaign for meat as well. That may seem archaic, but it's reality.

Cattle aside, if the wildlife reservoir of Tb continues to spread its deadly load, what do you propose we 'vaccinate' next? Cats?, dogs? alpacas? free range pigs? and of course human beings.

We support vaccination of badgers to protect them from endemic infection spreading amongst themselves. (And the Badger Trust should pay for it) And that's it.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only reader to find the use of 'anonymous' or contributors masquerading as 'matthew said' very confusing? Would it not be better to make everyone use a different name? I would be happy to do so but need some reassurance, for security reasons, that my real identity will remain hidden.

Matthew said...

Anon: 11.30

We agree, but 'blogger' system allows only three options.
1. No comments.
2. 'Moderated comments' which means what you say is screened by the editors before it's published on screen.
3. The option to either log in with a name, as many have done and enter all or any blog with that name / password, or to latch on anonymously with no password - which is how we've left it.

It is not possible to delete the Anon. option, just leaving the log in - as we found a few weeks ago.

We cannot see who is posting if you register a pseudonym. It's done through a secure 'blogger' network option and not this site. In fact, even on the beakdown of hits, only the server (Windows 98, XL, Firefox etc), the referal URL typed into any search engine, or a link from another site, is shown. No names.

So totally anonymous, if that's what you prefer.

confusedorwhat said...

matthew said:
"Vaccination of cattle would stop our export market of breeding stock stone cold dead, and probably be used as a anti marketing campaign for meat as well. That may seem archaic, but it's reality."


If there was "a test that can distinguish cattle that have been vaccinated against bovine tuberculosis (TB) from those that had been infected by the causative agent, the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis."

Matthew said...

Vaccination is an argument running on various farming forums at the moment for other animal diseases - not zoonoses.

Countries use declared OIE levels of 'disease free status' as a marketing tool, whether for meat and dairy products, breeding stock, semen embryos or whatever. With FMD (Foot and Mouth Disease) because it is not an endemic problem, the EU operate a cull policy and do not vaccinate - even though a vaccine is available. Other countries (S.America) have big outbreaks and do vaccinate, and are then excluded from prime export markets for their products.

If they export stock which has the disease, (as may have happened with FMD in Cyprus, alleged to be the result of imported Brazilian beef) then the disease may be available to infect another country's livestock.

With bluetongue, the second plague to hit us this year, the virus is midge bourne, and the spread and virulence quite horrendous. Economically, the movement restrictions are said to be killing more businesses than the virus kills sheep and cattle. Next year we face a far worse exposure as 10,000's more infected midges inflict havoc.

For years BTV has been a disease of 'other countries', and the UK has happily excluded the commodities I've mentioned because of it. It's called market management.

Now that bluetongue is set to encircle latitudes higher than its usual stamping ground, all the countries affected are screaming for vaccines. But until they all vaccinate, some areas (Scotland is one) will hang on to 'BTV free status' and the marketing 'edge' it gives - for as long as possible.

With Tb, the use of any vaccine (and the discovery of a marker does not mean that a vaccine is either economic or imminent) would immediately close down many markets to any areas using it. Even products sold onto the home market would attract a two tier price. One for Tb free, one for vaccinates. That's what retailers do.

But I would seriously question manufacturers' viability for market authorisation and useage - global demand - for such a vaccine, which is what drives production and cost.

As we said, it is only in countries such as GB that it could be argued to have a market. And that is not big enough. New Zealand with such a huge export facility contributing to their GNP wouldn't even consider it, and the rest of the EU and even the world copes very well with test / slaughter - providing they don't let a wildlife reservoir rip.

As I said - it's archaic, but that's the reality of the marketplace. Only when all countries are using a sytsem of disease control, and it is deregulated from an 'A' listing with the OIE (which Tb will not be, as it is a Grade 3 zoonosis) does vaccination for disease become irrelevant in marketing.

matthewwrongagain said...

Matthew said...

Matthew (in black letters - no relation) 10.23:
Most countries world wide have eradicated the disease with test / slaughter policies.

That's true - or is it?
The last time bovine tuberculosis was detected in Canada was in 2004. Until now that is when twenty-two farms in Alberta and six in British Columbia have been placed under quarantine and around 400 animals are expected to be slaughtered.

British Badgers on holiday perhaps?

Canada is fortunate - TB in cattle is a problem in many countries.

ecomomicwiththetruth said...

Matthew said...

Even products sold onto the home market would attract a two tier price. One for Tb free, one for vaccinates. That's what retailers do.

Infected meat and milk already enters the food chain in this country as there is no reliable way of testing - no I don't believe that inspectors can be 100% at slaughterhouses

Matthew said...

Why is Canada fortunate?

Some states in North America (and Canada?) have a wildlife TB reservoir in white tailed deer, which hunters have fuelled by feeding them to get bigger carcasses. The cattle joined in and bingo - transmission.
We covered that in 2005:

Any country with Tb in a wildlife reservoir (possums, wild boar or white tailed deer) is not going to eradicate it from its cattle herds unless it sorts out the disease in that reservoir. What's so special about badgers?

On the subject of vaccination - which is highly unlikely for cattle as we said; we have received further epidemiological information re 'vaccinating' anything, in the face of a continuing 'massive' challenge from an untapped wildlife reservoir - in this case Tb infected badgers. Our caller described it as 'daft'.

Matthew said...

A bit more re the Canadian outbreak:
The newspaper comment quoted was snipped: It later pointed out that elk, bison and deer all cause problems from time to time for farms bordering the big National Parks in Canada - this is no exception. To maintain TB free trading status, Canada slaughter out herds affected.

From elsvier site:
"In Canada, there are two known regional foci where wildlife populations are infected with bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) and considered to be disease reservoirs. Free-ranging populations of wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) in and around Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) and wapiti (Cervus elaphus manitobensis) in and around Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) are infected with bovine tuberculosis. In this paper, we provide an overview of these diseased wild ungulate populations and the complexities of attempting to manage issues relating to bovine tuberculosis in and around protected areas."

What they do not do, is walk away and leave these reservoirs to fester.

Matthew said...

economic... 9.15

My, we are having a play with the 'other' option for pseudonyms on blogger, aren't we? Quite imaginative.

You said:
"Infected meat and milk already enters the food chain in this country as there is no reliable way of testing - no I don't believe that inspectors can be 100% at slaughterhouses"

The skin test for Tb in a live animal is fine. (Sigh)

For milk,look up 'pasteurisation'. And for milk to contain Tb bacteria, infection must be present in the udder or mammary glands and it is our undertsanding that this is very rarely found to be so (occasionally in suckler cows ). The primary source of lesions - the majority of which are closed (walled up) - is throat, chest or head area, due to inhalation. If, and it's a big if a dairy animal did get so far advanced with disease as to produce milk containing m.bovis (as was the case in the 1930's and 1940's which led to the eradication programme and widespread pasteurisation of milk for human consumption)then the compulsory pasteurisation process destroys it. That is what it is there for. That followws through for cheeses and yoghurts. Herds which supply unpasteurised cheeses are tested much more regularly, and if found to have Tb infection, then the license is withdrawn. Milk from reactor cattle awaiting slaughter cannot go into the food chain.

With meat, bacteria are enclosed within lesions - encapsulated is the word, if we understand it correctly - and these as we've said, are mainly in the glands of throat, head and lungs which are not the edible parts of the animal. If found in a carcass, they and the area around,(i.e the fore quarter of the animal) are destroyed.
But the remainder of the carcass is sold into the food chain. And no, we don't think is the brightest of PR ideas, but Defra reclaim several £million by doing it.

What about Tb in badgers? do you not think you could be at risk, as much as the cattle in fact, from close proximity to infected setts / latrines / pee on grassland? Or do you look from a distance?

youfarmersareconfusedorwhat said...

Oh dear, I suppose I should ask you to define 'fine', as in "The skin test for Tb in a live animal is fine. (Sigh)".

The test is fine if you don't mind missing large numbers of animals that are infected.

You clearly know that the skin test is no where near 100%, but you think that's fine??

Matthew said...


Yes. We do.(Reckon the skin test is OK) We've all had cattle with enough to see the results.

And from PQ's:
It(the intradermal skin test) is the "primary test prescribed by the OIE for international trade, as well as EU Directive 64/432/EEC"

"The comparative tuberculin skin test is used to certify that cattle herds are free from bovine tuberculosis; the comparative skin test at standard interpretation, provides sensitivety (the ability to detect exposure to disease) in the range 68 - 95 per cent, and specificity (ability to correctly identify the bacteria) in the range 96 - 99 per cent".

High 90's is as good as it gets for any diagnostic test.
The lower range of the sensitivety figure, is we understand, the test on a single animal, thus a 'pursuant to' PQ was posed. This was the answer:

"A single animal test with imperfect sensitivety, when applied more than once to an infected animal, will cause the overall sensitivety to rapidly approach 100 per cent".

Which is why IRs were given a second (or third) chance.

If a rector is found to have lesions, and thus Tb confirmed, under severe interpretation, the interpretation of the test is rolled back (reduced) by 3mm.

With regular testing and no wild reservoir, the Minister said:

"All countries that have either eradicated, or have a programme to control bovine tuberculosis use one or more forms of the skin test."

"The Government is not aware of any country country that has replaced the skin test as the primary test for bovine tuberculosis."

As ever, we are most grateful to baby Ben Bradshaw for his most helpful answers..

Matthew said...

matthew (lower case / black - not one of ours. GSOH )said:

"I would be grateful if anyone who disagrees with killing badgers would just go away from this blog!"

This blog is to share information. Not snip and snipe. Enough cattle (including several of ours) are killed - you're comfortable with that? (Oh, I forgot - "Cattle get killed anyway" as Trevor so succinctly put it) So that's OK? Even and especially from herds with no bought in cattle and no cattle contact? Waste of time and money if they aren't the source - and in our cases they were not.

and: "We are not going to change our view that we must kill these creatures to protect our cattle NO MATTER WHAT THE SCIENTISTS SAY OR HOW MUCH PUBLIC MONEY IS SPENT ON RESEARCH."

I think we've explored this 'political science' that passed for this research quite thoroughly. A conclusion was reached and a 'trial' set up to accomodate it. Absolutely appalling, and even more appalling that Bourne is quite so blatant about it..

We have also explored ways of managing an endemically infected badger population which does include wipe-out, (even though, as with Thornbury, a wide area clearance works, with "no other contemporaneous change identified that could account for the reduction of TB incidence within the area" ) and that too has been met with derision.

And we have looked at other countries where a) they have no wildlife reservoir of tuberculosis and after testing, now achieve TB free status with slaughterhouse surveillance only, and b) if they have a wildlife reservoir, what are they doing about it? And in no case except GB, are they abandoning other mammalian species to spillover from it.

If there are two sources of infectious disease, what is the purpose of only removing one? And if the cattle are being tested every 60 days, reactors removed and infection is not clearing, would it not be more cost effective to look at the second - and thus maintenance reservoir?

We support the use and development of PCR to identify where wildlife problems are, and we support post movement testing of cattle moving into more extended testing intervals.

The PQ's were carefully phrased to dig out the postulates of epidemiology - by an epidemiologist with vast experience of infectious disease control. They did their job. Krebs was a charade to buy time. Prevarication, but most imaginative.

Enjoy your games. The only winner here is tuberculosis.

Anonymous said...

Matthew said...
Enjoy your games. The only winner here is tuberculosis.

It's not a game - we, the public, have spent £millions on this issue and now have the way forward recommended.

This has been supported by some of the world's most eminent scientists, but some farmers want to dismiss it.

Some farmers are also aware that they need public support.

Catch 22?

How to convince us that the research is wrong without even trying the recommendations?

You are not succeeding I'm afraid.

Matthew said...

Anon: 9.24
"How to convince us that the research is wrong without even trying the recommendations?"

That is the whole point. We started this blog because a few of us had done the biosecurity bit - no cattle 'On' to the farm, no cattle contact and still landed the taxpayer with a huge bill for prolonged Tb breakdowns.

Tuberculosis doesn't come from the tooth fairy. With our herds, infected wildlife carried it in. And until that source is stopped, then the cattle will continue to flag up exposure - and get killed.

As for accepting the ISG reccomendations of more cattle controls, we have dug out a lot of documented evidence both from Ireland and the SW of England, where fierce regimes of testing and slaughter, cohort slaughter and whole herd slaughter was tried - and abandoned because it had no effect of reactor numbers.

We covered it here:

So we have little enthusiasm for a re run of cattle carnage which has been proved by bitter experience, to solve nothing.

Matthew said...

Any comments with confusing identities will be removed at the editor's discretion.

Matt & Richard.

Anonymous said...

Matthew said...

Any comments with confusing identities will be removed at the editor's discretion.

Matt & Richard.

Now that's confusing - Matthew is Matt AND Richard

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that you've decided to censor this blog, but of course we can't tell just how offensive the removed items were

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your endeavors, but with so many factions involved who knows which way the politicians will jump.

It's a pity that even farmers don't present a united front with the NFU taking a stronger line and trying to organise support for wide spread badger culling, but other farmers wanting to 'thin out' badgers, and even those that want to lave them alone

waitingtobe censored said...

Matthew said...

Any comments with confusing identities will be removed at the editor's discretion.

Poor editor is easily confused sometimes!

Jim said...

Anon 9.24 said: "It's not a game - have the way forward recommended."

It's definitely not a game for us farmers, nor for our cattle which are being killed in increasing numbers, but some of those posting comments on this site seem to think it is a game - and don't seem to mind spending millions more taxpayers' money on a problem which isn't going to be solved without tackling the wildlife reservoir of infection.

Yes, the ISG has recommended a way forward, but for reasons which have been patiently explained on this site almost ad nauseam the ISG's conclusions are fatally flawed. You don't have to take my word for it - look at the Chief Government Scientist's review of the ISG's work. He called their central conclusion "unsound", which in polite science-speak seems to me to be about as dismissive as you can get.

Matthew said...

Anon: 5.20
Nope. See blog header .
Two editors, who take contributions from 6 farmers, vets pathologists, MPs and others.

Anon: 5.21
Only comments with confusing identities will be removed ..
These postings were not offensive, but had confusing 'parentage'. Someone was taking the ****
(We have upgraded one comment re vaccines to a new thread).

If you want to make a point, feel free.

Anon: 5.25
Thanks. Farmers acting together? Herding cats is easier.
We had hoped to find some points of agreement on the way forward.
We doubt that has happened.

Waitingtobecensured.. 5.27
Don't take my name in vain, and you won't be (censured)

Not confused - far from it. Just making sure no one else is.

Matt 5