Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Moving the line

Last year Defra produced a new Parish Testing Map, with areas shaded red having annual testing and the buffer of orange on two year testing.
This was the 2010 map.

And this one (left) is their 2011 version, showing how the insidious spread of bTB is now creeping northwards, north eastwards and east of the original hotspots.

To illustrate how decades of ministerial prevarication have affected the spread of bTB, this is a map of confirmed breakdowns in 1996 (right). This is not quite comparable with the maps above, but every confirmed breakdown would instigate an annual parish testing interval.

There are about eight major 'hotspots', (seen in the 1986 illustration (left)) which apart from expanding, had not changed in their geographic area or the spoligotype found there, in the time that TB breakdowns and badger postmortems had been logged by VLA.

We have been told that bTB tracks through the badger population, carried by 'dispersers' kicked out of their social groups and on the roam, at around 10 miles annually. So any guesses as to how long before Defra's map is solid red to the coastline of the North Sea and the Scottish borders?


Anonymous said...

If only DEFRA could identify the farmers that continue to transport diseased cattle to these peripheral areas!

That would stop TB in its tracks!

Wouldn’t it?

Anonymous said...

if you read this blog you obviously have an interest so I assume thats a serious comment... but really...

Take a look at the spoligotype maps then map cattle movements in the UK...

Anonymous said...

My apologies - in today's parlance - one might say that I was being "ironic".

I know's all about them 'spoligotypes' and it's the diseased badger that needs to be heavily culled and the sooner the better!

Matthew said...

Anon 10.12 & 8.07

The sad thing is, that there are some who absolutely believe that bTB is 100 per cent a cattle disease, with only cattle transmission and thus cattle measures will control / eradicate it.

Such naive, erroneous but vocal campaigns have ensured that the spread of tuberculosis through the badger population will mean badgers suffer more, not less.
And ultimately, more will have to be culled either to ensure that vaccination is aimed at an uninfected population, or as a knee jerk reaction to overspill.

Irony accepted - and you're quite right. With continual 60 day testing, routine annual testing and the pre movement testing all cattle able to move in the areas of Defra's map coloured red or orange, one would have assumed that TB would have been stopped in its tracks.
So what's gone wrong?

(That was rhetorical, by the way)

Anonymous said...

"Boxster the prize bull has already avoided one appointment at the slaughterhouse" after a "TB alert on the farm arose after a bought-in beef heifer was found to be a carrier"


Yep, there's no problem with cattle to cattle transmission!

anon - just like that anonymous spreader of old wives tales that told you that "bTB tracks through the badger population"

Anonymous said...

We have on this blog site:-

1. maps of the growing geographical spread of bTB over time

2. a chart of the increase of cattle culled / badger culling strategy over time

3. we also had way back a link to some graphs produced from DEFRA stats of bTB incidence by area etc over time

Anyone with just even a little bit between their ears would conclude that the failure to manage the (very sick) badger population has brought us to where we are today!

Anonymous said...

anon 1.14PM

You too have been listening to fairy tales - what makes you think the badger population is very sick?

If you are correct, why go to the expense and aggravation of killing them - just leave them to their sickness.

Anonymous said...

We have been doing that since 1997 and both the badger population and its bTB percentage has increased alarmingly?

Do you believe the current badger population is healthy? Worse than 1997?

Get real!

Matthew said...

The level of TB in the badger population was highlighted by Chambers et al in their recent vaccination excercises, which we discussed at length during November /December.
Of the headlined 844, only 262 were suitable to be used for the 'Health and welfare of badgers vaccinated with BCG' field trial. Dr. Chambers kindly confirmed that some of these badgers were only caught once, and thus could not be assessed. But he said that those deemed unsuitable due to blood assays or culture positive pre-screening tests, totalled 43 percent of the captured population.

The captured population too, was noteworthy. 844 in 55 sq km, with another 90 found dead of which 30 were microchipped as part of the trial. So between 15 / 16 adults were cage trapped (or found dead but had not been trapped and marked) per sq km.

clearstats said...

Interesting post.

Do you know if maps of GB exist which shows the concentration of dots for years after 1996?

The red block of colour in the upper two maps hide the dots in the South West and Wales.

If such maps exist and present the information in a consistent manner, perhaps these maps can be examined to identify the creep which is probably due to badgers and the large jumps which are probably due to cattle.

Sorry if you have already posted these maps elsewhere and I have failed to notice them.

Matthew said...

We have the 2006 PTI map here;

(Thread Oct. 2007)

and the 2008 one:

(Thread July 2009)

As important to rate of spread are VLA's spoligotype maps, where individual blocks of the same strain of m.bovis are substantially the same as they were 40 years ago. But much, much larger. See:

We covered this July 2007, and FG has an individual map overlay of badgers / cattle for three strains in the SW and wales. VLA calculate that up to 94 percent of a single strain will be found in a single geographical area:


Clearstats said...

Thank you for the information.

You may be already aware of how testing frequency and risk of infection changes through the year, but in case you are not, you may find the following interesting


I wonder if the same patterns are seen in the Irish Republic.

Matthew said...

Clearstats. Your graphs are very good.
Yes, we are aware from veterinary and badger expert's info, that following periods of intense badger activity and re groupings(usually March/ April and September/ October) then cattle tests will spike.

Your graphs show a three month delay, (incubation) siting June and January as peak time for cattle problems.

Provided the testing is regular, our PQs gave the incubation period of UK strains of [i]m.bovis[/i] as up to 221 days - or 7 months.

Are you aware that the quoted figure of 'farmer compensation' actually includes all costs of removal and dispersal of the reactor, but is net of salvage ? !In other words, transport to the abattoir, slaughter and inspection costs incurred by the abattoir, incineration costs and in Wales, valuers fees are all bundled together. Salvage value of carcasses sold on,(around £4.8m ) is deducted from the abattoirs' account with Defra. But the figure is not just 'farmer compensation' and Defra cannot break it down any further.
A very strange way of accounting, we think.

Anonymous said...

Here's another reason why 'the line' may move:

Willsbros farmers fined for moving TB-restricted cattle


A farm in Cornwall has been fined for moving cattle while under
tuberculosis (TB) restrictions.

Willsbros Ltd, of Pawton Dairy, Wadebridge, was put under restrictions
in January last year.

However a vet spotted a local newspaper photograph of the Willsbros
family at a national cattle show in Warwickshire.

Willsbros pleaded guilty to seven offences under tuberculosis and cattle
identification legislation at Bodmin Magistrates' Court.

The company was fined £7,200 and ordered to pay costs of £7,140.

'Eagle-eyed vet'

The court heard the TB2 restrictions followed the discovery of an
inconclusive reactor at Pawton Dairy during a pre-movement TB test.

This restriction prevented any unlicensed movements on or off the
premises until a negative test had been obtained - at least 60 days
after the initial test.

When "eagle-eyed" vet Cliff Mitchell noticed an article and photograph
in the Cornish Guardian of the Willsbros at the National All-Breeds Show
in February 2010, a joint investigation was launched by the Department
for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Cornwall Council
Trading Standards.

Investigators discovered cattle had been moved between premises run by
Willsbros Ltd without TB pre-movement testing, without passports being
completed and without the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) being
informed of the movements.

DNA tests of the pedigree animal which sparked the TB2 restrictions
found no biological link between it and the animal registered as its
mother with both the BCMS and the Holstein UK pedigree society.

John Pascoe, the animal health manager from Cornwall Trading Standards,
said the investigation had uncovered serious deficiencies in the
recording, reporting and monitoring of cattle births and deaths.

After the sentencing, Mr Pascoe told BBC News presiding judge Paul
Farmer had talked about the 10th anniversary of the foot-and-mouth
outbreak which decimated farming in Devon and Cornwall and other parts
of the UK in 2001.

"Judge Farmer alluded to the anniversary and how it highlighted the fact
that failure to follow the correct procedures can put farmers at serious
risk," he said.

"It is vitally important for the farming industry to adhere to these
controls which enable rapid tracing of animal movements."

So much for BCMS, etc

Matthew said...

Anon; re Wills Bros.
From what we read and understand of the system, the milking dairy herd at Pawton Dairy is on a different site from the youngstock and also the high genetic ET breeding stock.

Where this could have gone pear shaped is that all the holdings were linked (in disease status) in the eyes of Defra, but not in the opinion of the Wills', who failed to obtain the necessary documentation to release a clear testing holding.

Or maybe they did just ignore all the statutory shutdowns, in which case the book has been thrown, and rightly so.

Such cases are not the norm, and most of us grit our teeth and abide by Defra's orders.

As for 'such cases' being the reason for Defra's line moving east and NE, then spoligotyping of reactor cattle sparking the move, would show if outbreaks in such areas were the result of cattle movement. The evidence from the spoligotype maps, is that they are not.

Anonymous said...

Matthew I hope you are right that most farmers comply with regulations, but I must point out that you have absolutely no way of knowing what is going on 'in the real world'.

'Most' would mean?

A majority?


Nobody knows.

Like the man said: "DNA tests of the pedigree animal which sparked the TB2 restrictions
found no biological link between it and the animal registered as its
mother with both the BCMS and the Holstein UK pedigree society.

John Pascoe, the animal health manager from Cornwall Trading Standards,
said the investigation had uncovered serious deficiencies in the
recording, reporting and monitoring of cattle births and deaths."

Matthew said...

Anon 9.35

We can only speak for ourselves. That is the farmers with registered holdings, cattle and dealing with the various regulatory authorities, who contribute to the site.

From over 40 years experience of dealing with ministry officialdom, I would say that if you play ball and do your best, they will be as helpful as they can be. But if, like this instance, breaches, and serious breaches have been made, then the book will quite rightly be thrown. And furthermore your card will be marked for the future.

It is our understanding that the computer links for animal tracings between BCMS, AHO and Trading standards is now in 'real time', so checks on cattle movements can be instant. The same with markets. Documentation is required on entry which states the date of the test, and no movements are accepted in if that breaches the 60 day period.

We do not know the full story of the Wills Bros'. case, but on the face of it, it is serious and does our industry no favours at all.

Anonymous said...

Matthew said...

"Such cases are not the norm, and most of us grit our teeth and abide by Defra's orders."

A bit later -
Matthew said...

"We can only speak for ourselves."

Matthew said...

Anon 5.47
Don't be pedantic.
Of course with 100 percent certainty, we can only speak for ourselves.

We also pointed out that the computer system operating between the various regulatory authorities is now in 'real time' for tracings.
And cattle cannot be unloaded to trade in markets without appropriate documentation, again computer linked.

You missed those bits.

The press have been quick to jump on this instance, (which we do not defend) and its court judgement.
I'm sure they would have been delighted to report daily - had the fodder been there.

Clearstats said...

The following document which describes work performed by O’Connor, C.M., Haydon, D.T. & Kao, R.R. at the University of Glasgow shows maps of GB and Ireland for 1996 and 2006.


It is interesting to see how reactor densities changed in these 10 years in the Irish Republic compared to how they changed in Northern Ireland, Wales and the South West of England.

I was able to blow the page up to read the legend on each map and to get a clearer view of spot density and colour.

Anonymous said...

Matthew, if anyone on this blog is pedantic it is you. But then it is your blog, and you have a point to make. But readers should be aware of each others limitations - even if they have their own (albeit unidentified)'scientific team'.

And the bit you've missed is that any computer system can only process the data it is fed. BCMS etc. relies on farmers some of whom don't play by the rules.

"Trading Standards arranged for a DNA test of this pedigree animal and it was found that there was no biological link between it and the animal that was registered as its mother with both the BCMS and Holstein UK, the pedigree society.

John Pascoe, of Cornwall Council's Trading Standards, said: "During the investigation of this case, serious deficiencies in the recording, reporting and monitoring of cattle births and deaths were uncovered. It is vitally important for the farming industry to adhere to these controls, which enable rapid tracing of animal movements. Non compliance, such as those found, can have devastating effects for the whole of the farming industry if a disease situation develops."


Matthew said...

Anon 9.21

Nope, not pedantic. But ready to hang Wills Bros from the nearest tree. The damage they have done to our industry is incalulable.
We've read the press reports and also spoken to people on the ground, for a bit more information.

Agree 100 per cent with your comments. And having tried for 6 years to tell it as is from this side of the fence, written by people to do grit their teeth and abide by some horrendous Defra decisions, we have had enough.

The whole industry has been let down badly and the ramifications will be brutal.