Thursday, November 03, 2011

Success v Failure

New Zealand has produced a combined report of its progress in eradicating bTB. The documents report good progress in what they describe as 'an exceptional year':
"It gives me great pleasure to report on what has been an exceptional year for protecting the country from bovine tuberculosis (TB)," said Mr McCook.

The drop in infected herd numbers to around 80 in 2010/11 is the lowest recorded total since the TB control programme was conceived.
We covered their progress last in 2009, in this posting. And Christiane Glossop, in a paper written for the NZ Animal Health Board, also congratulated them on such stunning progress.
"We slaughtered 12,000 cattle infected with tuberculosis in Wales last year. In some areas of Wales, the infection rates are as high as 15%.

In contrast, New Zealand has an infection rate of 0.35% and it’s going down. You have nearly wiped this disease out through rigorous pursuit of pest management, stock movement controls and robust government policies built on co-operation between farmers, local councils and government."

So how are we getting on in GB? The latest figures produced by our Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA to July 2011 show a somewhat different trend.
Herds under TB restriction in the seven months to July, are UP and number almost 8 percent of our cattle herds, with 18 per cent of the West region's herds caught up in restructuins.
New herd breakdowns are UP by 5.4 per cent on the figure for 2010.
And cattle slaughtered fed into Defra's mincing machine, are UP by 6.1 percent on last year.

So what are New Zealand doing differently. That was a rhetorical question by the way, but they describe their strategy thus:
Introduction to the revised National Pest Management Strategy
In September 2009, the AHB presented a proposal to Agriculture and Forestry Minister David Carter to amend the National Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) Pest Management Strategy. The strategy amendment was duly approved and the revised strategy came into effect on 1 July 2011. This strategy will guide the TB control programme through to 2026, subject to five yearly reviews.

Over the next 15 years, the strategy aims to achieve the following primary objectives. These include:

The eradication of TB from wild animals over at least 2.5 million hectares of Vector Risk Area (VRA), including two extensive forest areas representing relatively difficult operational terrain from which to eradicate the disease
Continued freedom from infection in wild animals (vectors) in existing Vector Free Areas (VFAs) and areas where eradication is considered to have been achieved
A secondary objective is to maintain the national infected herd period prevalence level (the number of herds with TB during a period of time) below 0.4 per cent during the term of the strategy. The amended strategy gives priority to wildlife TB eradication and allows the AHB to prioritise operations and resource allocation for this purpose.

The TB control programme has made significant gains over the past decade, especially in reducing the number of infected cattle and deer herds. However, TB-infected possums continue to be a source of livestock infection across some 10 million hectares of New Zealand’s TB Vector Risk Area. The revised strategy sets out to address this underlying problem by aiming to eradicate TB from possum populations in selected areas. These areas make up 25 per cent, or 2.5 million hectares, of the total area of New Zealand known to contain infected wild animals. Achieving this objective will also confirm that TB can be eradicated from possums and other wild animals across large forest tracts where possum control is most challenging.

Eradicating TB from the possum population across one quarter of the total area known to be at risk from TB-infected wild animals would also from a basis for extending the eradication approach to further large areas of New Zealand.

The revised strategy will continue to protect the reputation and value of New Zealand’s dairy, beef and deer exports by ensuring infected herd numbers remain below a 0.4 per cent period prevalence. To achieve the objectives of the revised strategy, the AHB will vigorously pursue improvements in the cost-effectiveness of possum control. Herd testing and movement control policies will also be adjusted to reduce the risk of herd-to-herd TB transmission and, over time, reduce the need for herd TB testing in areas of low disease risk.

With a TB incidence of below 0.4 percent, NZ is intending to eradicate the disease risk from their wildlife reservoir, from 2.5 million hectares. 25 per cent of the total area of NZ.

And us? With a TB incidence of almost 8 percent in the first half of 2011, Defra is 'mindful' of setting up a couple of pilot 150 sq km plots for a four year badger culling 'trial'. But using a published operating protocol which should guarantee the outcome of this plan is similar to that of its previous exercise in prevarication, the RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial.

These are outrageous figures by any standards. This country, its cattle, badgers and all the overspill victims of bTB deserve better. Much better.

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