We have been uneasy for several months now with the recurring mention of 'bio-security' (whatever that might mean in the context of bTB ) in the same breath as tabular compulsory purchase monies, or cross compliance with the SFP.
Our co-editor gave his unique overview of Defra's 'fence 'em out' big idea, in a previous post. But like a bad smell, it keeps recurring. In fact researchers have had taxpayer's cash to further line their pockets in a couple of reports, produced for Defra where they explore 'bio-security' in no particular depth, and little background certainty that their 'big ideas' will yield anything at all.
Farmers deserve better. But at the moment it looks as if, once again, we may be led up a garden path on a journey based more on hope than experience.
In January, we posted the job opportunity advertised by the NFU, paid for with
While many farmers will welcome dedicated support as described in the flyer leaflet from the SW TB Advisory service, most of us would prefer it was not necessary. And some of us, seeing that one part of the package involves 'Disease Risk management' are wondering how long it will be before such ideas as explained in Defra's advice booklet (Number 10) become part of compulsory action with cash penalties for alleged breaches?
Defra have abandoned their single booklet which was given to farmers at the time of a TB breakdown, in favour of 15 separate leaflets, heavy on pictures but short on information. Or information of any value. If this (or the SW TB Advisory Service's) advice is followed, then farmers are entitled to expect results. And from what we have seen of the basic list, that will not happen.
A decade ago, 'keep a closed herd' was the mantra. That didn't work for some of our contributers and now all manner of bolt-ons have appeared in the form of 'shared slurry spreaders' and access. (Our contributers have neither but still have TB) And Defra are still banging on about feed troughs 'at least 75cm ( that's 30 inches in old money) off the ground'. This despite having added to Prof. Tim Roper's pension pot, by commissioning research in 2001 which saw badgers easily accessing troughs at 43 inches. They didn't have to stand on each others shoulders either. And it was the lightweight ones with overgrown claws, which then hooked these over the edge of the trough, then swung up and in. Simple. PQs confirmed this research, adding the proviso that "at this height, cattle would not be able to access". Quite.
What we did like about Defra's No 10 leaflet entitled 'Dealing with TB in your Herd', was the pretty pictures of badgers all over it - although why not pics like this we really cannot imagine. The leaflet tells us (so it must be true):
"Badgers present a particular challenge to all cattle farmers who want to keep their herd bovine TB free"Strictly speaking that is not true. Defra's intransigence and decades of prevarication over what action to direct at TB infected badgers is the challenge cattle farmers face. But we digress. The blurb continues:
"Badgers in particular, suffer from TB and are able to transmit the disease to cattle causing a breakdown in a herd that will result in movement restrictions and slaughter of affected cattle".
Yes. Of that we are only too well aware. But what are Defra going to do about it as these animals have acquired cult status and their ancestral homes a Grade 1 listing?
"This leaflet provides some guidance on what you can do to reduce the risk of transmission to your cattle".
Troughs at 30 inches? Not according to that Defra funded film.
Sheeted gates 4 inches off the ground? Nope, they can slither under those.
And whaddya do about the grass? That isn't mentioned.
Oh, and for goodness sake don't leave a ladder about.
Seen in a Kitchen Garden magazine this month, the following gem as an answer to a gardener wanting to harvest carrots for himself and seeking advice on how to exclude
"I do know of an allotment holder who built a 6 foot high fence around his land to protect his sweetcorn, with access via a ladder which he left at one side for him to get into the enclosure"
You know what's coming next, don't you?
"He left the ladder up against the fence one night, and the badgers got in."
We reiterate what we said in the posting which advertised the SW Advisory team jobs.
Someones idea of 'bio-security' may have a profound effect on any compensation monies due, however unproven, ineffective, impractical or costly such measures may be.We are also reminded of the words spoken at least twice in our hearing, by the former chief at Woodchester Park's Badger Heaven, Dr. Chris Cheeseman. When asked how to keep badgers and cattle apart, his reply was unequivocal:
"You can't. You get rid of your cattle".
Cattle farmers, you have been warned.