Saturday, May 01, 2010

Welsh pilot area begins

Today, May 1st, the Welsh bTB eradication area pilot begins.
This was kick started with clearance of the pilot badger cull from the Bern Convention which yesterday decided to squash a complaint brought by the Badger Trust.
"The Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has welcomed the decision by the Bureau to the Standing Committee of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats - also known as the Bern Convention - not to continue with a complaint brought by the Badger Trust with regard to the planned cull of badgers in west Wales."
In a meeting in Strasbourg on 29th March 2010, the Bureau, which takes administrative and organisational decisions between meetings of the Standing Committee, decided to remove the complaint from its complaints list.
Elin Jones said:
“This is confirmation that the Bureau agrees with our view that the provisions of the Bern Convention have been fully respected in considering the proposed badger cull. “

“We will continue with the preparations in the pilot area. Bovine TB is one of the biggest problems facing cattle farmers across Wales, and we have to tackle all sources of the disease. We will face serious consequences if we do not.”

This decision comes hard on the heels of a recent Judicial Review in the High Court, where the Welsh Assembly Government successfully defended its decision to implement a limited badger cull in west Wales.

At the same time, cattle measures in Wales will be tightened up to reflect 'severe interpretation' protocol on all tests. Farmers Guardian gives the following details:

* Herds to be tested every six months.

* All breakdowns, whether or not ‘confirmed’ by post-mortem, will require two clear 60 day tests, to release movement restrictions.

* Breakdowns will also be subject to tracing which will generate additional testing for associated cattle herds. (We assume this means 'all' breakdowns, as confirmed ones generate traces at present? - ed)

* There will also be restrictions on cattle movements within and outside the area.

* All British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) linkages and Sole Occupancy Authorities (SOAs) between holdings inside and outside the pilot area are being cancelled, requiring farmers to report all movements to BCMS and comply with pre-movement testing requirements.

* Farmers have also received visits from their private vets to discuss bio-security arrangements on their farms to reduce risk of TB getting into and spreading in their herds.
“The bovine TB eradication programme is a long-term project will last for five years and includes a range of measures designed to restrict and ultimately eradicate TB in cattle,” said Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Dr. Christianne Glossop “In the pilot area, local vets have been working with farmers since before Christmas to improve bio-security on farms. The additional measures are a vital element of the programme.

“We know that cattle and badgers are the main sources of the disease and that, if we want to achieve our aim of eradicating bovine TB, we have to tackle the disease in both species." said Dr. Glossop.

With that we would agree, and we wish them luck.

But if they get the badger part wrong then as has been tried before, no amount of nailing cattle to the floor, will make the slightest difference to TB incidence, which is already spilling over into other mammals both in the Principality and England.


Anonymous said...

From Saturday (1 May), the cattle farms in the Intensive Pilot Action Area in parts of north Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire will be tested for TB every six months and cattle movements into and out of this area will only be allowed with strict pre-movement testing.

But there is still no indication of when the first badgers in this 288sq/km will be trapped and killed and what numbers are involved.

About 100 farmers within Wales' badger cull zone are refusing to allow Welsh Assembly officials on to their land just days before the first badgers are likely to be trapped.

It is not known whether any of the 350 cattle farmers within the cull area are among the reluctant landowners but what is clear is that the size of the 1500 holdings vary significantly, from large-scale to very small farms.

A spokesman for the assembly government said it had the legal power to force entry if necessary.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is a cattle owner in the cull area and he says that in fact there are very few new controls and/or restrictions for cattle movement - and that the biosecurity measures are all advisory and voluntary only. So much for "strict new cattle measures" and attacking the disease on all fronts.

Matthew said...

Thanks for your comments, both Anons. on the Welsh pilot area.

From a cattle farmer's point of view, if your herd is already under restriction with a confirmed breakdown, we suspect you would see little difference.
If, however, you experience an unconfirmed breakdown in Wales, which then takes 4 months instead of two to de-strict you, then that is a significant change to your ability to trade. As is six monthly testing, all of which is hassle, and sometimes difficult with cattle not in convenient places with testing facilities readily available.

The 'immediate suspension' of SOA for example, would have implications for temporary grass keep etc., and farms which rear one class of animal away from the main holding. More preMT and cost. From what we read, for farmers with a single holding and already under restriction, there would be no change at all.

Just musing out loud, we realise that these extra cattle measures were brought in to 'close the circle' at the same time (or actually ahead of) a pilot badger cull. But by doing the two things parallel, we suspect that questions will be raised, should there be a drop in TB incidence, what was the cause of it?

We also are aware from past experience of the English RBCT that the co-operation of farmers in any Animal Health initiative is vital.

Why for instance, have 100 farmers not signed up? Do they mistrust the culling protocol as 'inadequate'?
Are they already on the receiving end of intimidation from animal rights activists on the one hand, and the Welsh Assembly's 'right of entry' stick on the other? Caught in the middle of scrap which they cannot win?

More information is welcome. Three of us have been there before, trying to farm within RBCT areas.

Anonymous said...

"But by doing the two things parallel, we suspect that questions will be raised, should there be a drop in TB incidence, what was the cause of it?"

Quite so! And already have been

"We also are aware from past experience of the English RBCT that the co-operation of farmers in any Animal Health initiative is vital."

Yes, but in Wales the necessary powers to force compliance are in place.

"Why for instance, have 100 farmers not signed up?"

Because not all farmers think badger culling is a good idea!

Matthew said...

Anon 12.41

Re your last point. If cattle are clear on regular skin tests, there is no reason to cull badgers at all, other than overall population control.
We favour using the sentinel cattle tests, RTA badger pms, and 'other species' TB overspill to pinpoint where wildlife are causing problems. Then fieldcraft/PCR to further refine the exact origin, and only remove that source. But remove it completely. There is no reason to interfere with anything else.

Enough taxpayer's money is spent obtaining this information. The messages are there from all three sources (tested cattle, badger pms and spillover TB) - no one is listening.

Anonymous said...

Minister blocks cull of badgers in bovine TB hotspots

From The Times
May 20, 2010

Valerie Elliott

Plans for an emergency cull of badgers in hotspots of bovine TB are to be delayed while Caroline Spelman, the Rural Affairs Secretary, reviews the scientific evidence.

Ministers will also await the outcome of a pilot cull in West Wales before embarking on such a policy in England.

The decision will disappoint many farmers, especially those in areas with highest incidence of the disease, such as the South West. A further review is surprising because the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats supported an emergency cull of badgers during the election campaign. The Conservatives have always seen vaccination as the eventual breakthrough to control the disease, although before the election Jim Paice, the Agriculture Minister, met officials at the Porton Down research establishment to see if it is possible to test badger setts for infection before any animals are killed.

It is also unclear what message this sends to the shires, especially as the Government has already kicked into the long grass a free vote for MPs to repeal the hunting ban. Giving people the freedom to hunt has become as totemic an issue for the Tory faithful as it was for the Labour Party to ban the bloodsport.

Senior figures at the Countryside Alliance, however, had prepared the ground well before the election result to dampen expectations for an early resolution on hunting. No one expected hunting to be a priority issue especially at a time of economic crisis.

Simon Hart, former chief executive of the alliance and the newly elected Conservative MP for Carmarthen West, said: “As far as I am concerned there is no change in the position and the commitment to offer a vote on repeal is solid. Frankly it is a matter of trust between the Government and hundreds of voters and I am not going to get indignant about having to wait for another few months or for another year or so.”

He said that a year ago many in the hunting world had not even expected the chance to repeal to be included in the Conservative manifesto but the commitment was ”a significant step forward”.

He admitted there may be some impatience in some quarters and there would be anger if the commitment were dropped altogether. “But that is not the case. It will be done, it is when, not if. When the important issues of budget deficit reduction are sorted we’ll get a Parliamentary slot and deal with it.”

Three men were arrested yesterday after officials were stopped from entering land to prepare for a badger cull in West Wales. A police spokeswoman said the men were later released and no action will be taken.