Friday, August 27, 2010

How will Defra count ... bison?

A herd of 30 bison at a tourist attraction in South Gloucestershire is under TB restriction, after 5 of the animals at "Cattle Country Adventure Park" near Berkely, failed the TB test.

The story is here. Owner, Tony Cullimore commented on the outbreak:
We are only the second bison herd in the country to get it, but bison are cattle, so there is no reason why they can't.
Tuberculosis is a zoonosis, and there is 'no reason' why any mammal should not 'get it' - but let that pass.
"But it's more of a heartbreak when it's bison. They will have to be slaughtered."
As 40,000 cattle were in 2008 / 09 ? And several hundred alpacas? Why should an owner's 'heartbreak' over bison be any different at all? Losing any animal to tuberculosis is 'heartbreaking'. And stressful and bloody unecessary.

The bison are likely to be slaughtered over the next few days.
Mr Cullimore said three Highland cattle at the attraction also tested positive, which prompted tests on the bison. The Highland cattle will have to be slaughtered and the number of bison lost to the disease comes to six – one died after another knocked it down during the testing process, which bison find particularly stressful.
Most animals find testing 'stressful'. Early abortions in cattle are frequent and calves may get crushed and damaged as their mothers 'stress' in confined situations, leading to broken bones. We note that without access to the highland cattle for routine testing under TB regulations, Defra would not have found these bison.

And we also note that the previous outbreak in bison, to which Mr. Cullimore refers does not yet appear in Defra's 'other species' statistics. We await with interest to see if his animals are ever logged.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Number crunching

We have brought up the subject of Defra's statistics with regard to numbers of 'other species' which have succumbed to tuberculosis, on several occasions.

We will continue to do so, until they realistically and accurately reflect the correct numbers of deaths, and not a mere thumbnail snapshot of positive culture samples.

Today Farmers Guardian have picked up on the vast difference between positive deaths from tuberculosis which a small group of alpaca owners are reporting to their TB Support group, and the meagre figures of culture samples which Defra publish, occasionally.

Having done a bit of detective work into the various layers of Defra officials charged with reporting this Grade 3 zoonosis in line with the Tuberculosis (England) Order 2007 (as amended in 2006 to include 'all mammalian species') we have the following guidance on notification:

Para 6
Notification of disease in carcases :
(1) Any person who—
(a) has in his possession or under his charge any carcase that is affected with or suspected of being affected with tuberculosis;
(b) in the course of his practice as a veterinary surgeon, examines a carcase that is affected with or suspected of being affected with tuberculosis; or
(c) in the course of his duties, inspects, for any purpose, a carcase that is affected with or suspected of being affected with tuberculosis,
must, immediately he suspects the carcase may be affected with tuberculosis, notify the Divisional Veterinary Manager.

(2) A person who has in his possession or under his charge a carcase mentioned in paragraph (1) must detain it on the premises where it then is until it has been examined by a veterinary inspector.
(3) In this article, “carcase” means the carcase of any bovine animal or other farmed or pet mammal.

Para 18
Control of infection from other animals
18.—(1) Where a veterinary inspector reasonably believes that an animal kept on any premises is or may be affected with tuberculosis, he may by notice served on the occupier of such premises—
(a) require him to keep the animal under control in such manner as may be specified in the notice or to confine it to such part of the premises as may be specified; and
(b) prohibit the movement of animals on to or off such premises, except under the authority of a licence issued by an inspector.

(2) In paragraph (1), “animal” means any kind of mammal except a bovine animal or man.

Para 20
Isolation of M. bovis in a laboratory
(1) Where the presence of the organism M. bovis is identified by a laboratory examination of a sample taken from any mammal (except man) or from the carcase, products or surroundings of any such mammal, the person in charge of that laboratory must immediately notify the Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

Pretty clear, we think. Except that there are fudges here. Where tuberculosis is already confirmed in a group of animals, then samples of every carcase could be said to be a waste of resources. And in cattle only samples from the first couple of a TB breakdown are strain (spoligotype) sampled. With cattle identification now robust, further deaths or test failure slaughterings are logged. But with 'other species', particularly larger groups of pigs and alpacas, then culture samples are the only thing which Defra are counting - as they explain on their chart. And as with cattle, due to 'cost constraints' only a couple from the first casualties are taken. We are assured by vets and AHO staff further down the ladder that they are reporting positive pm's to the local VI centre, who in turn confirm their reports to Defra, London. But there the logs appear to jam. Although the lift goes to the top floor, the figures appear not to be passed to the people in FFG who collate those statistics.

Furthermore, again due to cost constraints, unexplained 'other species' deaths are now being refused postmortems, even if the herds are under TB restriction, and the owner, complying with the above Act 6 (1) reports such a suspicious death as possible tuberculosis.
Farmers Guardian:
This was confirmed by an irate owner of a heavily infected alpaca herd, from Devon, who told Farmers Guardian he had recently reported a dead animal to Animal Health to be told he would have to organise and pay for any post mortem, himself.

It is our understanding that the animal in question ended up at the local knacker yard, and was not examined, even cursorily, by any Veterinary Inspector as defined in the Order.

The lack of right of entry to premises, any statutory movement records or publicly available identification is thought to have led to delays in tracing many cases of onwards transmission of TB among purchased alpacas. And has not helped those deaths associated with movements to agisted matings.

We wrote about this lack of joined up thinking in this posting last October. And apart from a change of heads in Westminister and great deal more anguish for owners of pets and companion animals, which have died from TB - not to mention the risk of onwards transmission to these owners - absolutely nothing has changed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An anniversary

One of our contributors has forwarded the following text:
"And now we are fortunate enough to possess a method that enables us to recognise very early if an animal is infected with Tb or not, viz the tuberculin test.

Tuberculin is an extract of tubercle bacilli cultivated in bouillon with glycerine. The bacilliare killed so that the fluid cannot infect, but it has, when injected under the skin of an animal, the marvellous property of producing a typical fever, which appears after some hours and lasts about 12 – 16 hours – so called reaction – if the animal is affected with tuberculosis even in the slightest degree, while a healthy animal is not at all influenced by the injection. Tuberculin was for the first time prepared by Koch in 1890.

He hoped to have found a remedy to cure tuberculosis, and tuberculin seems indeed to have some curative influence, though not as much as hoped. But its diagnostic property is recognised by all, and the tuberculin test is used on a very large scale.

It is true that tuberculin is not absolutely infallible. Very old small tubercular deposits enclosed in a thick layer of fibrous tissue sometimes fail to call forth a reaction, but it is of no practical consequence, because such deposits will as a rule do no harm. A worse thing is that animals suffering from TB in a very high degree sometimes cease to react. This fact has done much harm, because such animals will usually have open tuberculosis, and their presence in a healthy herd may therefore occasion much contamination, but when the person in charge is aware of the danger, it will as a rule not be difficult to recognise the disease by clinical examination.

It is still worth mentioning that repeated injection of tuberculin may in some animals provoke immunity to the test, which may be used by a cattle dealer with intent to defraud."

Several pages are devoted to the development and use of the 'Tuberculin Test', which originally used m.tuberculosis as its base. Later this was changed to a derivative of m.bovis (AN5 strain) and in the UK, an m.avian comparative jab was added.

The reference to old walled up lesions from previous exposures is also mentioned in the CVO reports after the eradication sweeps of the 1950s and 60s., where it was expected that some cattle would present at slaughter with such scars, over the next decade. After which time, the cattle herds of the UK, in parallel with many other countries (and in the absence of a wildlife reservoir) would have eradicated Tuberculosis.

The quote is taken from ‘The Standard Cyclopedia of Modern Agriculture’ vol X11 TRI – Z , which was published in 1911 - a century ago.

Happy Anniversary.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Camelid consultation

Today, the Welsh Assembly Government have launched a consultation document, aimed at bringing camelids, goats and deer under the statutory regulations to control bTB. They say:
The arrangements proposed in the consultation would impose duties, obligations and responsibilities on the keepers of these animals. This would be done by largely replicating the arrangements already in place for bovine animals through secondary legislation. The proposed policy will be delivered by means of the draft Order annexed to the consultation entitled the Tuberculosis (No 2) (Wales) Order 2010.The measures provided for by the Order are consistent with the objective of the Wales TB Eradication Programme which aims to address all sources of infection, including in non-bovine animals.

Meanwhile, Defra has resurrected the 'other species' TB stats which appeared to have stuck in departmental groove last November. But as we have pointed out before, these are numbers of culture positive animals only, and are not representative of total deaths which are reported to and postmortemed by, VI centres. And running in just about a parallel time frame with the figure of 28 alpacas in the stats, other
information from Defra indicates a total of at least 35 herds under TB restriction, with 3 more notified at the end of last week.

So of the 28 alpacas identified on the stats, each of the almost 40 holdings presented an arm and a leg, presumably ?

For comparison, this time last year (July 2009), 11 camelid herds were under TB restriction. And to illustrate the yawning gap between Defra's stats and reality, members of the alpaca TB Support group have reported 155 deaths up until the end of July 2010. At least 19 herds under restriction are not members of this group, thus their casualties (apart from animals culture sampled) are not publicly logged anywhere at all.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Update - Alpaca side effects thread.

Since posting of the video clip of the alpaca suffering an anaphylactic type reaction to the skin test, Dianne Summers has told us that she has been contacted by two owners of alpacas, whose animals had exactly this type of reaction when veterinary drugs were administered for possibly pneumonia.

Although initially appearing to recover from this distressing reaction, the animals concerned subsequently died. And on postmortem, were found to have generalised tuberculosis.

A veterinary pathologist, after seeing this video clip, remarked that regardless of the result of the skin test, (or apparent short term efficacy of anti-pneumonia drugs [ Nuflor and Metacam have been mentioned]) this reaction appears to be a good indication of generalised TB in any alpaca suffering it..

Sunday, August 01, 2010

How high is your dustbin?

We have mentioned many times the value of Defra advice on bio security, and in particular, the recommended height of cattle troughs. Now Defra will say 30 inches, while our parliamentary questions very helpfully pointed out that badgers had been filmed accessing troughs at over 40 inches, "at which height cattle could not feed". Quite.


So if you are offered this gem of advice, please remember this dustbin.
Our dustbins are about 28 inches high - and the one in the video clip was secured on both sides, yet accessed with ease, several times .... no contest was it?