Saturday, January 10, 2009

2009 - An excellent start

Just two decades ago, in the mid 1980s, after a TB eradication programme involving an inward sweep from the coasts ending in the north midlands, GB had less than 100 herds under TB restrictions and slaughtered just over 600 cattle.

Last week, that number were slaughtered on one farm alone, making this arguably the largest number of cattle taken in one 'hit' from a GB farm.

Over the last few years, Trioni farms in Pembrokeshire has developed a thriving
business turning organic milk from its 390 dairy cows into flavoured milks and yogurts sold under the 'Daioni' label. At a TB test in May, six reactors and a handful of inconclusives were found and slaughtered. Things were getting better after a few years of continuous TB restriction. But a test in early December revealed that most of the young stock, reared and fed outside, were reactors to the skin test.

150 autumn born calves and 78 others have all been destroyed.

As the tests were applied to the milking herd, the Harris family feared the worst, and two weeks before Christmas, test results revealed another 220 reactors and 120 inconclusives out of the adult cattle.

Despite pleas to valuers, Welsh Assembly, Soil Association and abattoirs - and indeed anyone else who were willing to stir their respective backsides over the Christmas shut down, the process clanked on - until January 7th., when the first 130 cattle were loaded up for slaughter. (Farmers Guardian report)

The Harris family were contacted by several organisations and individuals - most to offer sympathy and support. And by the Environment Agency and others of that ilk, to ensure that the milk from the reactor cattle, now isolated awaiting slaughter but still in need of TLC and milking for weeks, was being disposed of in a manner prescribed by The Law.

But after the first days' carnage of the adult cattle, the local AHO changed its mind and informed Mr. Harris that some of the consigned inconclusives need not have been slaughtered after all. Well that's a relief then. 46 need not have been shot. But the reprieve may be shortlived. The remaining cattle will be subject to Defra's toy-box favourite, gammaIFN. So it is highly likely that Mr. Harris and his family will have very few, if any, cattle left by the end of January 2009.

As we said at the beginning of this post, the Trioni cattle were of organic status, which should, according to a badger lobby website, have protected them from TB.

"Some commentators have suggested that organically-raised cattle have an exceptionally low incidence of TB infections. Very little research has proven this to be the case in the UK, but there is some evidence that organic cattle in countries where TB is endemic appear to have a high resistance towards the disease. This, and the possibility of getting higher prices for stock sales, should be a factor to consider if you were considering going 100% organic or moving towards more organic methods.

While we appreciate the attempts of the badger lobby to 'reduce the risks' for our cattle, we would remind them of this outbreak in 'TB resistant organic cattle':
563 organic cattle dead? Another batch to run the gauntlet of gammaIFN? This one sweep probably the worst single hit outbreak in GB history? And within an established, predominantly home bred and regularly tested organic herd ? An excellent start to the New Year to all concerned with the welfare of GB's cattle.

Our sympathies go to the Harris family.