Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Doubling up

We have received the following update from the Alpaca TB Support Group. This small number of owners and breeders (about 28 herds) are in contact with each other for support and advice, when they find they have a TB casualty among their animals. The number of deaths from bTB which they have reported within the group, is a mere snapshot of camelid deaths from TB in the country, but even among this group, casualties have almost doubled from last year.

Through their enquiries, the group have learnt that the 'official' camelid TB figures, produced occasionally by Defra and updated quarterly (although we note that this chart has been the same for six months ) refer only to samples submitted to VLA. So if an animal dies on farm, is postmortemed on farm, but is part of a larger or ongoing TB breakdown, then culture samples are not submitted. And thus it drops off the 'official' statistics radar.

Which would go some way to explaining why the Defra figures are (still) showing 68 confirmed TB casualties for 2009, with 120 samples submitted, while the members of the TB support group have recorded 144 deaths. All positively confirmed by veterinary post mortems.
Up to Dec 31st 2009 those in contact with the TB support group lost 144 alpacas/llamas [with] confirmed TB. This works out roughly 12 a month. From that 144 we had 12 skin test positives 7 of which were from one herd.

In the first 4 months of 2010 From 1st Jan - 30th April 2010 members in contact with the TB support group have lost 94 alpacas.
.... which works out to over 23 animals per month - and almost double the incidence of 2009.

Statistics for cattle are more robust, as BCMS and CTS are involved and individual animals are logged. But we understand that due to financial pressures, (and numbers?) as with camelids, samples consigned to VLA for TB strain cultures or 'spoligotyping' are limited to the first couple of an ongoing breakdown.

For over forty years, the results of cattle casualties and RTAs or badger removals, have been painstakingly logged and mapped by VLA and our posting gives some results of the blocks of GB countryside where an 'environmental' strain of TB is circulating between sentinel tested, slaughtered cattle and free ranging, endemically infected badgers - and available to any other mammal who happens to wander by. Including highly susceptible alpacas.

From a comment on the Alpaca blog, it would appear that although TB can be spread between infected imported herd members, only 6 herds could nail their outbreaks positively to this source. For the others TB had come from a wildlife source, whose name Defra are not keen to mention.


Anonymous said...

"From a comment on the Alpaca blog, it would appear that although TB can be spread between infected imported herd members, only 6 herds could nail their outbreaks positively to this source. For the others TB had come from a wildlife source, whose name Defra are not keen to mention"

It's early days yet but if one compares the Parish bTB Testing Frequency map with a map of the English SW / Midlands - almost all areas are either blue or yellow

I'm not yet sure who will be Mr Benn's successor but policywise - we must be making some progress and maybe even DEFRA will refer to ........ "badgers"

Peter Brady

Anonymous said...

Farmers Guardian - extract

Jim Paice, an MP whose life and political career have revolved around farming, has been confirmed as the new Agriculture Minister.

The 61-year-old Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire had held the post of Shadow Agriculture Minister in opposition since 2004. Prior to that he was an opposition spokesman for Agriculture between 1997 and 2001.

He served as a Parliamentary Private Secretary at MAFF for four years from 1989 and then briefly as Secretary of State for the Environment under the previous Tory Government.

The veteran MP, who still keeps cattle today, will now serve as Agriculture Minister in a department led by Caroline Spelman, who was appointed Secretary of State for Defra on Wednesday (May 12).

Among his key policy pledges in the run up to the election was a commitment to implement a badger cull in England.

“We would hopefully get on with it almost immediately,” he told Farmers Guardian before the election. “We cannot go on with the absurd situation where we are killing more and more cattle every year and getting nowhere.”

Matthew said...

Anon 8.14.
A Secretary of State who recognises what sugar beet looks like, and a Minister of State who recognises cattle ? This has to be an improvement on a vegetarian bloke called Hilary, who oversaw one of the biggest stitchups farmers in GB have had the misfortune to endure.
The RBCT also went a very long way towards destroying trust in the word 'science' in this country - at least for those of us who were 'privileged' to be part of it.
That trust is something that no politician can put back overnight. It was easily lost, and will be difficult to earn back.

Tuberculosis overspill into many other species, most domestic, will be the key. At least it will when Defra get around to completing their data collection on these TB casualties, or at the very least offering a more accurate description of their stat's provenance.

Anonymous said...



I believe this is the time to thank the organisers of this blog!

Since 1997 the Farming and Rural Communities in the UK have been disenfranchised by a political class-hating, anti-countryside regime that was the envy of Zimbabwe.

Our Country and its countryside – God bless it – has acquired not only an enormous financial black-hole but a cultural inheritance that will take many moons to wash through. The negative effect that the so-called New Labour has had and will continue to have on the UK in the near future is incalculable.

The Bovine TB saga fully illustrates the lies and deceit carried out by the New Labour regime and those that are closely involved and indeed have suffered directly as a result of its policies will know this to be wholly true.

Of course – sadly – the Countryside, Farming and Cattle breeding in particular is not alone in suffering from New Labour’s corrupt partisan policies. It is difficult to place the New Labour regime – left-wing? right-wing? Marxist? Fascist? Yes - all of these!

This bTB blog has stuck to its tasks and illustrated the problems and experiences that cattle (now camelid) owners have suffered and continue to suffer - even though it no doubt realised that only a change of political power would enable a practical solution to be implemented.

13 years is a very long period to observe conditions getting worse in your industry and to wait for a permanent solution.

We now have a chance to ‘get back’ our Country, its Countryside and the cattle industry in particular.

We must however continue to pressurise the incoming administration to immediately address the bTB problems although as we know there is a will to resolve this problem. There is still much to do!

Again – thank you all for your magnificent effort!

Peter Brady

Matthew said...

Thankyou Peter.
We just say it as it is.
Straight down the barrel.
And it if offends - tough. It should do; the obscene waste of money and the stress the owners of these animals are placed under is an affront to anyone with half a brain.

The badgers too are suffering, as populations increase, disease build up is magnified and our pm pictures don't show an animal which is a picture of health and vitality.

The problem now is that the momentum of this disease has attracted many hangers on. Defra has placed layers of 'duly authorised experts' between its Animal Health division, and the problem which they need to address. We call it a beneficial crisis. And they are going to be reluctant to let go their largesse..

Anonymous said...

Not used to back slapping, but I too congratulate you on the running and maintenance of this blog site. If it wasn't for the information we gleen out of reading it, we would still be in the dark as to the shenanigans the Labour party has put us through. A vegetarian as our Minister - always doomed to failure !!

As far as Mr Paice goes - he now needs to put into practice what he has promised us - a thorough cull of infected badgers throughout the whole of the England. Our only concern is about who will do it ? Will we be getting the old brigade back - the wildlife units or will we expect contractors to do it ? Maybe, who knows, the NFU will take it on board ? How will it be paid for ? One suggestion - drop the doomed to fail vaccination project and use the money(£20 million?) for a far more effective cull instead ? We only signed up for the vaccination in the hope that they would change plans and use us for a cull instead. Wouldn't that be an easy and quick way to start any cull - use the already collected data intended for the vaccination scheme ? Our farm has already been surveyed and mapped, as numerous others have. Lets now use that data to better effect and not before time to.

Keep up the good work Matthew. We need access to the real facts all of the time not the propaganda that Defra throws at us !

Matthew said...

Anon 10.36.

This won't be over until the fat lady sings - as they say ! But we will be eternally grateful to close the books on this sorry saga.

We see Mr. Paice has been careful to use the word 'targetted' in the same sentence as a cull of infected badgers. And as the area affected is so large, it needs to be.

Cattle farmers too would like to see and appreciate a badger, without thinking 'are my cattle going to be shot next time I test them?'.

It's not so long sonce the WLU staff were summarily dismissed. Some must be still around, in contact and with a wealth of experience. Even if Defra (or whatever they'll call themselves this time around) distance themselves by employing another layer of contractor management, the foot soldiers need to be skilled fieldsmen, and preferably in charge of their own mapping.

The use of the cattle tests (and dead alpacas, cats, dogs, sheep, goats and pigs) is vital, so that AHO have the overview of where problems are. And just as importantly, where they are not.

As the vaccine debacle was to take place in areas of endemic TB, then using them as baseline for a targetted clearance is a start. As are the already mapped areas of the RBCT.

But we must not forget that if John Bourne's infrequent and messy badger dispersals taught us anything at all, it was how NOT to cull badgers. In his own words his culling 'trial' was designed to fail. On many occasions he reminded his audience that of three options on his table in 1997, one was just not going to happen.

Cattle farmers were stitched up once and that must not happen again.

Anonymous said...

"only 6 herds could nail their outbreaks positively to this source. For the others TB had come from a wildlife source, "

You presume too much!

TB had possibly come from a wildlife source


TB had come from a human contact


TB had come from an environmental source


TB had probably come from a wildlife source (- that got it from livestock)

The truth is - nobody knows where they got TB from

Better just kill everything that can get TB then?

Badgers, rats, fox, cat, dog, farmer, child, etc, etc

Matthew said...

Anon 5.43
We 'presume' nothing. And neither do AHOs. They do in depth risk assessments on every TB breakdown case, before making any judgement. The results of those risk assessment point to around 90% badgers.
Any carrier of bTB has to be capable of transmitting bacteria in a manner and quantity which can infect another species.
Only one wild animal (badgers), and now one domestic (alpacas) ticks those boxes. Do the maths.

m.Bovis is not an airborne bacteria, it is heavy and thus needs direct 'contact' and in enough quantity to flag up sentinel skin test reactor cattle.

A badger with kidney lesions can drop up to 300,000 units of TB bacteria in each 1ml of urine. This is voided, 30ml at each incontinent squirt across grassland, and used as scent marking in doorways, gates, trees and crossing places.
A cow will react to the skin test after exposure to just 70ml of m.bovis.
Do the maths - and remember that exposure is available to any mammals who may encounter it - including all the ones you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

slightly off topic, but The Highland Show is about to open for its four days, does anyone know what prohibitions there are on Camelids at the show now that Scotland is TB free.

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

Anon 3.37
As far as we are aware, the TB cattle rules for Scotland do not apply to alpacas. Any show which decides to impose anything different for camelids is doing so off its own bat and not under direction.
Alpacas can and are, jumping over the border quite happily with no pre or post movement checks of any sort.

(previous answer deleted - spelling errors / mental block )