As our readers will know, we have long been critical of Defra's 'maginot' zoning lines on a map. Badgers can't read, and cattle on 3 or 4 year testing regimes may have already been infected. As no testing is required prior to any sale, let alone dispersal sales, prospective purchasers may inadvertently import trouble.
The parish testing map on the right of the pic, is the new improved 'red' zone requiring annual testing and all the paraphernalia that goes with it. A buffer of two year testing edges it to the east, and further east, but only a couple of miles from acknowledged hot spots, trade continues as normal.
Last October, several dairy farmers purchasing high quality and high priced animals from a big dispersal sale from beyond Defra's 'maginot' line, bought trouble. We heard of this quite early on with the Holstein jungle drums beating loudly as cattle purchased days before, became reactors or inconclusives during routine tests in their new herds from Glos. to Cornwall and as far away as Norfolk. One particular cow that we know of was condemned on slaughter, with generalised TB. Thus a purchase of several £thousand only days before, was 'worth' peanuts on Defra's tabular valuation, and nothing at all as salvage clawback.
But although the sale was mid October, Defra's cattle tracing mechanism has moved about as fast as a sloth on Valium in following up purchases from this sale - as the Eastern Daily Press reports.
Ken Procter, who is the former president of the Holstein Cattle Society explains:
We bought three cows on October 14. We had them tested. One failed and the others were inconclusive. They were only with us for four days," said Mr Proctor, who as a precaution put the cows into isolation on another holding, which does not have cattle.
When re-tested on December 19, two cows were both positive for bovine TB and have since been slaughtered in early January. Although he will receive some compensation, the loss on the breeding cattle will be more than £1,000 per head.
But Mr Proctor, who said that the disease had to be kept out of Norfolk, was concerned about the whole approach to testing: "The speed at which cases are tackled is horrendous. What really irritates me is that they still hadn't followed up the farm where the cows had been, and we didn't get a letter until about three weeks ago. They had waited four months before sending out tracing letters."
This farm was outside Defra's red area, and outside its buffer zone - which one presumes will now have migrated a tad further east?