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.


Anonymous said...

Matthew, From your links, it looks as if they are going to re-stock their land. Surely, for as long as they have badgers on it they are also going to have a very virulent strain of TB which will reinfect any cattle - is this really what they are saying?

Matthew said...

Anon 10.32

From a conversation with a very shell shocked Mr. Harris at the weekend, I got the impression that it is doubtful he will restock, at least for the present.

Organic cattle are difficult to source anyway, particularly in these numbes. And he felt as this outbreak was so bad, it would not be fair on either any cattle bought into this environment, or the tax payer, to restock until he felt he had assurances that this situation would not occur again.
Three herdsmen have lost their jobs.

Anonymous said...

Matthew, thank you for that. I was hoping that this was the case, because it is clear that for as long as there are badgers on that land, any new cattle will be hit again and again. That poses a horrendous problems for the Harris famliy as to what to do with their land and how they now farm it.

This case is significant, because for the first time, to my knowledge, we now have a clear example as to how government policy and badgers are evicting cattle from the landscape.

We must all start asking the government if this is part of a deliberate policy to remove livestock farming from the UK.

Anonymous said...

We must all start asking the government if this is part of a deliberate policy to remove livestock farming from the UK.

I believe it is. They tried hard in 2001 and are now trying harder.

Anonymous said...

Do you all think the govenment could actually think joined up thinking? No its not a deliberate move to get rid of us farmers, it is a deliberate move by a few to keep themselves in jobs! the longer the T.B. is in our cattle the longer these snivelling 'jobs worth' keep their cushy jobs! They are cival servants so come on, they wouldnt want this fiasco to suddenly halt now would they. Its the same with all these so called do gooders, badger trust, rspsa, they all have wopping big salarys and good pensions at our expence(tax payers)and charity. They couldnt give a t--s for animals or people, just their own skins, and how to 'milk' the problem for their own benefit.

Matthew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew said...

Our blog partner and co-editor coined the phrase 'beneficial crisis', and this fits the bill quite nicely.

Commiserations, woolly words of sympathy and the prolonged wringing of hands we have heard many times. But too many rely on TB (and other nasties) to keep them in research grants ... and of course in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

A deliberate attempt to downsize the UK livestock industry does imply a degree of joining the dots. But letting animal disease rip, by refusing to use the tools available, may have the same effect by default.

This problem will not be solved by successive talking shops in London.

UK core industries within the mighty EU-SSR were to be, amongst other fluff, financial services. But having created a pile of blank paper, the operators of this particular brand of pyramid selling not only believed their own guff, they actually bought an undisclosed amount of it back. How's that for brains?

To attribute the architects of this scandalous waste of money and resources (and exposure to risk for other mammals especially humans)with a plan, implies at least one collective brain cell.
We have yet to see evidence of that.

Anonymous said...

They answered, as they took their fees

‘there is no cure for this disease’ ……………Helaire Belloc

Peter Brady


Anonymous said...

If badger culling was legal the Harris’ solution would be straightforward: Destock for 12 months and get rid of the badgers during that period, while ensuring that they are also removed from neighbouring farms (many of which have also suffered massive losses). Unfortunately that is not going to be sanctioned unless the Welsh decide that a culling zone will be established in the Harris’ area.

However, your contributors, especially those who believe in the London based conspiracy theory and the man on the grassy knowl, should bear in mind that we live in the real world in Wales, and that there has been a U-turn in Welsh policy. Matters are now moving in the right direction, albeit belatedly and at to slow a pace. This U-turn has been made with full Welsh cabinet support, (i.e. towards controlling the disease in ALL animals), has been voted on and passed by a majority in the Welsh Assembly, and goes against London’s wishes.

Political reality dictates that matters are not going to move on at the rate we would like them to move at, but they are moving on, and a rushed change in official policy could be crushed in a Judicial Review brought by the Badger Trust et al.

And for those who have faith in our legal system coming down on the side of commonsense, remember what happened with Shambo, the ‘holy’ bullock reactor, not a million miles from the Harris’ farm? In that case the Judge ruled he should not be killed, and that the Welsh Government should pay all costs, even if they won a later appeal – which they did – it turned out the animal was riddled with lesions and the Judge’s decision had threatened human and animal health. So is it any wonder the Welsh Government is moving slowly on this issue? At least they are moving and in the right direction, despite what DEFRA would have them do!

Matthew said...

Anon 5.52

Thanks for the Welsh update.
Glad that at least things seem to be moving in a sensible and balanced direction.

We believe there is a consultation to be launched re TB compensation v. bio security? That could be interesting.

Didn't know the pm. results for Shambo, i.e multiple lesions. One really doubts the justice system, when such crazy decisions are handed down.

Anonymous said...

I am not suggesting that this should happen but what if the the Harris' bought replacement old milkers cheaply - waited for TB to strike - claimed compensation etc etc etc - probably more profitable than milking for real?

Matthew said...

Anon. 3.41

Any cattle restocking that farm, while infection remains in wildlife, is at serious risk. The Harris' business is registered organic, and organic status dairy cows on the open market are like hens' teeth - pretty rare.

We doubt such replacements could be sourced at the drop of a hat, or in this case at the fall of the dice on russian roulette TB tests. Then there is the issue of publicity for Daioni products with association to a permanently infected herd.

Short term, it would be less hassel for Trioni farms to buy in organic milk and let OMSCo take the strain of supply. As to what grazes their land ? ..... we understand they have permitted footpaths. Should they be marked perhaps? The messengers have been shot, but the source of Trioni's problems, and two big herds which are geographically close, is still spluttering about.