Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dutch calves - update

In the posting below, we quoted the bones of this story from the Timesonline reporting of a Dutch Farming Paper snip quoting NBA Director, Kim Heywood as saying "We're so sorry".
"We' re so sorry .... all calves from the previous two months are traced so that they can be tested. As has happened with these animals which have gone to the Netherlands"

Ms. Heywood pointed out that for their part, UK stock breeders do "everything they can to keep this disease under control, but the government refuses to cooperate by dealing with the wildlife source.."

A 'ban' on exports/imports by one member state to another within the EU is illegal, unless it is instigated by the Commission. Thus it is left to Dutch farmers and exporters to vote with their feet on the import of calves, if they feel risk outweighs value. And this has given another industry commentator pause for thought. Ian Potter, in his newsletter (July 18th) seems to think that this 'embarrassing coincidence' the timing of which couldn't be more opportune to put EU pressure on government, is all down to an effort by Dutch importers, or at least one Dutch importer to control his market.
The Dutch desire for complete control of the UK calf export market is turning into nothing short of a ruse leading to questions as to their professionalism and integrity. National newspapers have swallowed hook, line and sinker the news that calf exports from the UK have been banned due to the detection of TB in calves on Dutch veal units. The accurate story is that the Dutch and Belgian veal industry, directed by one particular Dutch importer, have called for a voluntary ban on purchasing calves from the UK. The bottom line is this Dutchman and some of his associates are insisting the delivered price of the calves from the UK is immediately dropped. Although numbers exported are now increasing which will reflect in the price, there are numerous farmers who we deal with who have been exporting since the ban was lifted who in the past two weeks have returned to shooting the calves at birth, which puts more valuable milk in the tanker and not into a worthless calf. If the Dutch want to play games they may just find they have control of an unviable market."

Time tell on this one. Is Mr. Potter saying that calves from the dairy farm, which is now under a confirmed TB restriction, were neither exported, nor traced to Holland? We are also told that gamma bloods were used to check these animals, not the skin test, so just how 'accurate' is the 'positive' result reported in the Dutch paper and which kicked the whole thing off?

The whole scenario is just a bit too much of a coincidence for our liking. And we believe in those like we believe in the tooth fairy. Whatever the root of this story, it's outcome, we will continue to follow with interest.

We have just received a bit more on this story:
* The calves apparantly came from a dairy farm in Worcestershire and were taken to be batched and lairaged, by an exporter in Staffordshire.
* At a Prm test [on older cattle] at the Worcs farm, one reactor was found.
* Whole herd test found 50+ more [including calves] Two cows had multiple lesions including mammary glands.
* Large no. of reactor calves were found to have multiple lesions from drinking mastitic milk from these two.

The exporter's cattle have all tested clear.

(more as we get it.)


Anonymous said...

Hard TB sympathetic to those badgering for a cull

It seems to me that many of the tasks performed by government are unpopular, some even downright unpleasant, part-explaining why we allow them to grab so much of our tax in wages and bogus allowances, and that is before we consider their self-awarded massive pension payouts.
Truly if you need to hire people to get the rotten jobs done you have to pay well, a theory which is likely to be strongly contested by anyone in the armed forces or the NHS.

But in their case the vital difference is they don't get to grant their own pay rises, do they?

Getting back to the dirty jobs idea, one chore raising its head yet again is the vexed question of what to do about badgers.

The government has hired all manner of learned people to say we should cull, i.e. eradicate poor old Brock from large swathes of the English countryside in order to reduce the incidence of bovine TB – a nasty disease in cattle which means immediate destruction and, of course, generous compensation for the farmer.

So far so good, but it just happens there is a significant body of public opinion which says we should not do anything like that because either there is no need or that culling will not do what the boffins say it will.

Badgers occupy a place of great affection in the hearts of the good ol' British public, including me.

What with Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows, in its centenary year no less, Mr Policeman Badger on the television and apart from the TB angle, badgers generally image well with the British people. They are seen as harmless and to a degree innocent, although their liking for fresh chicken can cause fatal havoc in any henhouse.

But among all that mushy affection there are people who deal not in sentiment but hard facts, presented in ways that confound the scientists who want to clear out badgers.

And at this point there is an element of unfairness nobody seems to acknowledge.

Virtually all the so-called evidence of badgers causing bovine TB is generated by folk who are paid to do so, and as we all know, he who pays the piper shall call the tune. After all, we saw that in the great Weapons of Mass Destruction lie, didn't we?

Would it not be a good idea, instead of making the badgers suffer, to just not have cows on ground where bovine TB has been found? We have plenty of reserve capacity to farm cattle in other parts of the country, with any beef shortfall more than filled by dubious imports from South America via EC countries that do nothing about it.

So if an infected area was rested from good ol' Buttercup and her chums, it might be the case that no cows means no bovine TB, no bovine TB means healthy badgers and after a decent interval back go the cows – and we can then see who infects who with what.

Governments are all too keen to cull various types of wildlife to achieve their goals – witness the current hate against grey squirrels.

They spend vast amounts of money – our money – on such harebrained schemes, and all too often the result is short-term chaos and long-term failure.

In the Fifties the government of the day was said to have given the nod to some Kent farmers who introduced myxomatosis to rabbits after the wartime absence of gamekeepers and rabbit trappers allowed bunnies to reach pestilence level. It worked just fine, but in a most distressing way, and the countryside stank of dying and dead rabbits for a couple of years until the conies developed a degree of immunity.

Now their numbers are as high as ever, and nobody has a humane answer.

With badgers and squirrels the same will happen – nature can beat mankind at this game anytime it likes, but mankind is too arrogant to learn.

Reader comment:

badger jane,
yorkshire 18/07/2008 22:42:17
What a refreshing article written by a sensible brain. You would not grow orchids in igloos, so why farm cattle in an area full of bTB and prone to reinfection....? Cattle infect badgers and infected badgers (if allowed to enter farm buildings) may pass on the disease. Keep them apart, move tested healthy cattle to areas well away from hotspots and let both species live in harmony as they have done for years.

Matthew said...

Anon 9.05.
Well that's sorted that then? Shift the cattle.

It doesn't work like that. Badgers are totally dependent on 'habitat richness' - earthworms, grubs and beetles - which co-habit where cattle graze. When they get too thick on the ground, they gravitate to vary their diet with - anything else they can scavange. The mono culture arable crops of the eastern counties they do not like.

During the FMD carnage of 2001, when Defra 'removed' 11 million cattle and sheep from the countryside during March - August, the ecological balance changed - even if a scientist didn't notice. Everything that depended on them for a food source, including badgers, were left wondering where breakfast, dinner and tea had gone. The insects and thus birds disappeared and so did the badgers. To where the next live cattle were; together with short grass, the grubs and worms etc.

Problem then was they were invading other badger territory, and the ensuing scrapping caused endemic TB to erupt into full blown disease, which they brought back with them when they returned as farms restocked.

So no, that would not work. Badger set-aside as it has been dubbed, is an old idea, trialled and comprehensively failed.

Eradicating 'brock from large swathes of countryside ' is emotive claptrap, unachievable and unecessary. And certainly not what this site is about. See our posting 'Peturbation update' July 2007.

Managing an endemically infected wildlife reservoir, harbouring an infectious zoonosis, to protect you, your children and your pets is what this is all about. A point well missed by most.

Anonymous said...

AS recently as June 20 2008 ~ Jonathan Shaw - DEFRA minister - said in the Commons “... cattle-to-cattle transmission accounts for just 1-2% of herd breakdowns. The remaining 98-99% of bovine TB is brought in from other sources.”
Farmers Weekly quotes Jilly Greed in its article about the a CD for farmers made by DEFRA. Mrs Greed acts as a demonstration unit for best practice on biosecurity measures to control TB. But even so her herd has succumbed to the disease. The CD gives advice on how to cut the risk of TB spreading in which, of “ .... the 26 points, made in the Bovine TB Husbandry Best Practice guide, 23 focus directly on the risk of infection spread presented by badgers..”
“The content leaves no doubt that DEFRA knows how big a problem badger to cattle transmission is.

Lord KREBS recently said in the Lords “Although bovine TB is spreading, its net reproduction number—a measure of its rate of spread—is only just over the critical value”.

Goodnight nurse!

Peter Brady
Society for the Eradication of Tuberculosis Transmission

Matthew said...

Thanks Peter. What a politician can do words! Amazing.
Bradshaw ansered PQ [150508] in Jan 2004 thus:
"Bovine TB is endemic in badgers in the UK; i.e it is constantly present in badgers within this geographical area."

The knack, we think, is to 'manage' the population to minimise full blown disease breakdowns, and with them the transmission opportunities afforded to other species - ALL other species.

Sheepdog said...

Are you saying that the two mastitis cows transfered TB via their mammary lesions?

Anonymous said...

I've heard some claptrap from 'farmers before, but really you should try and learn a bit about ecology before making sweepibng statements like "Badgers are totally dependent on 'habitat richness' - earthworms, grubs and beetles - which co-habit where cattle graze."


"The insects and thus birds disappeared and so did the badgers. To where the next live cattle were; together with short grass, the grubs and worms etc."

Population densities are of course affected by food supply, and earthworms are a favourite food of badgers. Totally dependent on cattle - rubbish

Sorry, I forgot, Matthew has superhuman, even godlike, powers because he thinks he can 'manage' the population to minimise full blown disease breakdowns,

dream on!

Matthew said...

We reported the Update news from a Worcs. vet. 'We' are saying nothing. We are listening.
However, from PQs and Animal Health veterinary staff, it is our understanding that it is unusual for a regularly tested cow to develop generalised TB, especially in the udder glands. The usual site of lesions is throat and upper lung. But, if they do, then milk is highly infective and any calves receiving it will be affected - badly. (Udder infection i.e mastitis would exclude such milk from the food chain).

Anonymous said...

In respect of ‘managing’ the badger population:- SETT makes the following observations:-

• The badger population is currently estimated at between 750k and 1Million – not the 340,000 as recently re-presented by Krebs,
• SETT’s - target badger population is circa 250,000 (maximum)
• Dead badgers gassed in-sett do not perturbate

Peter Brady

Matthew said...

Anon; 5.34.
'Superhuman? Nope, willing to listen and learn though.

From Dr. Cheeseman of Badger Heaven aka Woodchester Park:

"Cattle farming encourages earthworms and grubs. So where you farm cattle, you are effectively farming badgers".

"Habitat richness" is an important factor influencing distribution and density of badgers. Environmental changes, including those brought about by farming practices can alter 'habitat richness' and thus have the potential to influence the 'carrying capacity' of a habitat for badgers"
(Changes in the British Badger Population 1988 - 1997 - G. Wilson, S. Harris and G. McLaren.)
Answered in PQ [158293] 18th March 2004, ; Col 429W

You want to criticise Steve Harris's work? Feel free.

'Management' of an infected population of badgers, to minimise disease transmission opportunities is being done. And not in our dreams.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 5.34

Of course you're right, Anon (as anyone who knows anything about badgers knows very well) but on this site I fear you're wasting your time.

This blog reminds me of the old joke:

Man goes to the doctor, convinced he's dead...Doctor tries to convince him otherwise but no joy. Finally doctor has an idea:
(Doctor) Dead people don't bleed, do they?
(Man) No
(Doctor) So if I prick your finger with this needle, you won't bleed?
(Man) That's right
So doctor pricks the man's finger, and blood spurts out..
(Man) So dead people DO bleed!

Don't come here for rational argument or sense!