Bovine tuberculosis has hit a llama herd in West Wales, killing half the animals. Western Telegraph reports that Wales' second largest herd of llamas has been decimated by an outbreak of bTb.
Although cattle are routinely tested for the disease, llamas and other camelids are not. Neither are their breeders compensated for their full market value. The absence of a test meant that bovine TB was not picked up in Liz Ford's herd of 25 llama at Bower Farm before the onset of clinical symptoms. Half are now dead.
"They succumbed very quickly. They became weak and ill and developed a severe cough. If a compulsory test had been in place, the disease would have been picked up sooner and some could have been saved. It is very difficult when animals are sick, and there are no rules on how to deal with it," said Mrs. Ford.
Livestock farmers in Wales who lose animals to bovine Tb are compensated for their replacement value, and for cattle in England the infamous 'tabular system' operates - or not, depending on ones' point of view - but no such payment structure exists for llamas. And, as is the case for cattle farmers in areas of endemic Tb, insurance is not obtainable, companies only offering such umbrellas when there is minimal disease risk.
The Western Telegraph reports that Mrs. Ford has received what was termed an 'ex gratia' payment, which was equivalent to just one third of what each animal was worth. She says that the Welsh Assembly only agreed to test the herd, after she had signed a document accepting this level of payment.
Many llama farms are run as breeding enterprises, with animals sold all over the country where they become fashion - statement lawnmowers. Only when breeding stock are exported or during the sale of surplus culls into the food chain, is any form of Tb disease check carried out. In the case of exports, that involves a skin test and for meat a post mortem carcass inspection.
From comments on a previous post, we understand that llamas are notoriously difficult to skin test.
Veterinary officials from the Welsh Assembly are now testing the herd but, unlike the 60-day gap between tests in cattle, these tests will only be done every 90 days. Mrs Ford says this is too long and has caused huge management problems. The Welsh Assembly admits there is currently no legislation for testing llama for bovine TB.
We covered a similar story in November . Members of the EFRA committee left their corridors of power and visited a llama farm in Devon, whose owners were equally 'devastated' when bTb hit their farm near Crediton.