Monday, September 20, 2010

Summing up

While the tabloid press and the farming press are chock full of 'farmers to cull badgers' stories, a comment from a Devon farmer [see comments section, below article] summed up for us, exactly how most farmers want this to proceed."
I'm writing ahead of what will be the usual barrage by the pro-badger lobby. I am a dairy farmer from Devon that operates a closed herd (that is for those that don't know - we don't introduce any animals on to the farm) We also have excellent boundary fences and high hedges which very much limits interaction between our stock and that of our neighbours.

In the past we suffered badly with TB and had multiple breakdowns over a period of time. This was during a period when MAFF were trapping and culling badgers on infected farms. 80 percent of the badgers trapped on our farm where diagnosed with TB at post mortem, once they had been removed - big surprise, so was our TB problem.

We currently have badgers on the farm and they have been there for a number of years now. I have no doubt that they are free from TB and therefore would have no plans to cull them. "
So this farm had enduring TB problems, regular 60 day tests, cattle reactors slaughtered and finally a badger removal. And that was the end of the story. The badgers repopulating this farm were not diseased, the cattle in Devon are tested annually, and this farm can trade with confidence. Neither is it a 'badger free' zone. The comment concludes:
"Those that live and work in the countryside know that wildlife along with all the other factors has an important role to play in the spread of this terrible disease, and whilst successive ministers have passed rules and regulations that address cattle to cattle transfer, at last we have one with the balls to address the wildlife problem. Congratulations to Jim Paice for a bit of common sense, it's a rare quality in a politician."

We started this site after being in exactly the same position as this Devon dairy farmer, but without the benefit of a badger removal operation. Three of us also had the misfortune to be included in the RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial, which certainly confirmed its orchestrator's words of wisdom that culling badgers " the way it was carried out in the RBCT" was inefficient and expensive.

The RBCT certainly showed anyone who was listening, how not to cull badgers. And like the tightly targetted clearance described by the Devon farmer, the only driver of culling should be the presence of disease.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear.

So once again you seem to be proposing the impossible.

Sounds like the old chestnut of a targeted cull of diseased badgers, followed by a 'natural' repopulation by 'clean' badgers.

The differences between what you seem to favor, and reactive culling - a sure fire way of increasing cattle TB - are difficult to grasp!

So, Bovine TB is responsible for the
killing of roughly 11,000 cows annually.
Dairy cows killed because they contracted mastitis -- 51,000; cows killed because they were not in
calf -- 75,000; cows killed because they were lame -- 25,000; cows who
simply died on farms -- 24,000; cows killed because they got too old --
21,000. There are actually nine causes of death in cattle which
outnumber those killed because they are suspected of having bovine TB.
And beef cattle, of course, all die young.

What's you fix for that lot?

Anonymous said...

Was talking to a cattle farmer the other day whom explained to me that he has a closed herd.

So far, so good.

At the time of the conversation we were in a large shed admiring some of his cattle.


At an agricultural show.

Closed herd?

Don't bother to answer - we know he's not one of the 'owners' of this blog.

Matthew said...

Both Anons.
Straight off the Badger Trust propaganda machine. And totally missing the point which is the transmission of TB to any mammal.

The 'old chestnut' to which you refer was responsible for clearing TB both from badgers and any spillover cattle during 1974 - 1986and very successfully. As the chap said in his posting, a small targeted cull worked.
What part of that did you miss?

It worked because the WLU teams stayed until the badgers tested clean. Not as in the RBCT 'reactive' debacle where they didn't turn up at all, or very infrequently for an 8 night foray.

We wonder just what favours you think this total protection does for badgers with TB? Obviously the Badger Trust gains support (and cash) on the back of such hype but what is the effect on overpopulated diseased animals?
Or doesn't that matter if you can't see it?

(That was rhetorical by the way)

cindy lee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matthew said...

Anybody want Ugg boots?
Nope, we thought not.
Spam. Deleted.

Anonymous said...

"We wonder just what favours you think this total protection does for badgers with TB?"

We wonder how you will kill ONLY badgers with TB!

Not possible.

With an injectable (badger) TB vacinne available now. And an aerosol version developed already for humans. Plus a coating developed already that will protect TB vaccine from the badgers' stomach acid - looks like their is a better alternative than slaughter.

OK, some badgers that are already infected may die from a reaction to the vacinne, but personally I feel that is a better option than killing the healthy ones.

Anonymous said...

"Straight off the Badger Trust propaganda machine. And totally missing the point which is the transmission of TB to any mammal."

No - not propaganda - facts.

The point is that there are many health issues that affect livestock

Matthew said...

Anon. 9.25 said:
"We wonder how you will kill ONLY badgers with TB!
Not possible. "

Of course it's possible. It used to be done using the cattle as sentinels which is what the farmer in this posting described. It was not over a huge area. And certianly not a partial and occasional rampage, splitting up groups. It was a tightly targeted small scale clearance, in response to AHO risk assessments.

We agree vaccine could be used on populations where the cattle are telling us the badgers are relatvely clean. These badgers need protecting from TB as much as any other mammal. But vaccines for TB (BCG) are less than perfect. Anything from zero to 80% effective. And then only on damping down transmission, not on prevention of disease.
There is also a problem, we understand with contractor licenses. Or the cost of them.
Vaccination, if we read the consulatation documents correctly, is a precurser to culling.
By how long, is not stated.

Anon 9.27.

Of course there are 'health' issues with any animal. Most have prevention, treatment or cures available with euthansia or slaughter a last resort.
Tuberculosis transmission is one such that is totally out of the control of owners.

And TB reactors compulsorily slaughtered totalled alomost 40,000in 2008, not 11,000.

That was preventable.

Anonymous said...

Another way would be to say b----r Europe and give our cattle BCG, just like we used to with schoolkids.

OK, we won't be able to tell vacinnated cattle from those with TB. But we'd give all cattle a shot asap after birth.

Those that actually got bTB would evenually show up looking sick, but we could build up a national herd with immunity.

Would b-----r international trade of course, but save all that cost of testing, etc.

Matthew said...

Anon: Too simple. Our veterinary pathologist colleagues tell us that not only is BCG unpredictable ( 0 - 80% efficacy) but the infectious load offered by badgers is too great for it to have much effect at all.
And of course it's not just cattle. What do we suggest to protect cats? dogs? (we have yet another terrier confirmed in Hereford/worcs)Alpacas and llamas, sheep, goats and outdoor pigs? Bison and deer? do we vaccinate the lot? And of course children, just so that infectious badgers can run free.

Anonymous said...

Matthew said...

Anon: Too simple. Our veterinary pathologist colleagues tell us that not only is BCG unpredictable ( 0 - 80% efficacy) but the infectious load offered by badgers is too great for it to have much effect at all.

Can I clarify that please? Are you saying that your 'vets' are saying vacinnating cattle would have no effect because some badgers carry TB?

Matthew said...

Anon 10.01 - re cattle vax.
Yup. That's about it. See our posting July 2007
Here we described the DIVA test. The comment was made by an ex Compton pathologist, that the idea of vaccianting cattle in the face of such a challenge from badgers was 'daft'.

Anonymous said...

So you are saying that vaccination works in protecting against a disease only from catching it from an infected animal of the same species?

Matthew said...

Anon 8.56.
No, we are not sating that at all. M.bovis is m.bovis, whether it is carried by an infectious badger, alpaca, human being or cow.
What the veterinary pathologists say is the 'challenge' or the size of the infectious dose offered by badgers, is unlikely to be stemmed by vaccinating cattle. It may damp down TB, but it will not fully protect. The size of the challenge is too great.
It has been found that there can be up to 300,000 units of m.bovis bacteria in 1 ml of urine from a badger with kidney lesions. 30ml is voided over grassland, feed, marking posts with each incontinent squirt. And just 70 units needed to provoke slow infection in cattle.
That is the size of the challenge.
Badger vax too does not prevent badgers getting TB, or dying of it. It is said to prevent some of the transmission from TB lesions, thus slowing spread. But only when offered to uninfected animals.

Anonymous said...

Could you refer us to your solution to bTB please?

Matthew said...

Anon 8.56.
We have said constantly that the only reason to cull badgers is the presence of disease, as flagged up by regularly tested sentinel cattle.

As we said earlier in this thread, (in reply to a derisory 'old chestnut' comment), a small but thorough cull worked well for many decades, keeping the level of tuberculosis down in the badgers and thus not feeding up into the tested cattle - or any other mammal in contacrt with its detritis. Lines on a map mean nothing and may cause more harm than good.

The 'we' being the cattle farmers, veterinary surgeons, ex DVMs from the State Veterinary Service, ex WLU operatives and members of the Wildlife Groups who contribute to the site.

But we are where we are. We had a politically motivated RBCT, which culled very few badgers but over a wide area very occasionally. Culling badgers in this way was described as 'not cost effective and not an answer' - a salient point, but known from day 1.

That hurdle is still there. As are the mathematical modellers, joined umbilically to their machines and believing what comes out, no matter what the data input was or how skewed. Thus we have the birth of these bigger areas announced this week, with a bureaucratic bundle of costs thrown back onto farmers and badger vaccination offered as a parallel both in pockets within the 150 sq km, and around any open boundaries outside.

Will it work? No idea. But we do know that John Bourne's political gymnastics will haunt the owners of cattle, alpacas, goats, sheep, free range pigs, cats, dogs and companion mammals for the next decade. And increasingly put their owners at risk of a disease which should have been consigned to history.

walterbayliss said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matthew said...

Spam - deleted

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Could you refer us to your solution to bTB please?

8:56 AM

A simple statement of what you propose would be good.

Many reading this blog may not be able to work out what you want done without you spelling it out,rather than refeerring back to what you feel worked in the past.

What do you propose?

Matthew said...

Anon 4.55

If disease in cattle is positively back traced to wildlife (as opposed to a purchased animals) and is not cleared by the next SI 60 day test, then:

1. Map the area that the affected cattle / alpacas /pigs/sheep etc have grazed.
2. Bait mark from the foraging area or farm buildings to locate appropriate sett / single hole.
3. Clear it out totally.
4. Disable sett to make sure no incoming badgers get infected from TB lurking in the target sett..

If neighbouring herds are having problems, the bait marked area may be enlarged, but it could be that one sett (or single bolt-hole) is affecting more than one farm. WLU tracking combined with bait marking would confirm the source.

That's it.

Anonymous said...

Well done Matthew for spelling out his solution to cattle TB.

I wonder why this hasn't been adopted?

Perhaps it is because his proposal would not work.

There are so many holes in his 'solution' - very disapointing