Thursday, February 23, 2012

His master's voice

At the NFU conference this week, Defra minister, Jim Paice slammed another couple of nails into our cattle's hooves - courtesy of his puppet-masters in the European Union.

Both Farmers Guardian and
Farmers Weekly report that farmers with overdue tests which reveal reactors, will be penalised through reduced tabular value compensation.
"Farmers who have overdue TB tests will receive reduced compensation if they have cattle slaughtered as a result of the disease".

That sounds pretty fair - until you realise that dear old SAM, that all singing, all dancing new computer is having hiccoughs with his paperwork. And some farmers are not receiving their timed window for testing at all. And that most definitely is very unfair.

The second change is to cattle attending shows or moving within a 28 day window, and is described by FG thus:
"Cattle which have had TB tests in the past 30 days, and those which have shared accommodation with other cattle at shows, will no longer be exempt from pre-movement tests."

And then speaking about linked holdings and other things giving the European Union FVO indigestion - and there are many - this sanguine comment from Defra's chief vet, Nigel Gibbens:
"At the moment we have a history of being behind the disease."
You mean you can't test and kill our cattle quickly enough? Farms enduring six 60 day Short Interval tests in one year is insufficient? Shame on you. And slaughtering even more cattle, preventing restocking and cutting the knees from Approved beef finishing units, while letting the source of up to 90 per cent of TB breakdowns in hotspot areas run free, helps how?

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

We covered this crazy one sided policy, as it had been operated by Paice and Gibben's predecessors, in this posting.
But if he is to be forgiven for not knowing his Ministry's history on TB control, perhaps Jim should read his parliamentary predecessor's Parliamentary Questions. And then revisit his own NFU speech with an adjusted time scale - and budget. Owen Paterson MP asked for the result of the just 6-8 months badger clearance at Thornbury. The answer:
"No confirmed cases of tuberculosis in cattle in the area were disclosed by the tuberculin test the the ten year period following the cessation of gassing" [150573]
So not 20 years of buggering about trying to cull out infected groups in ones and twos, very occasionally? And why should there have been this astonishingly quick result, we asked? Anything else done? Biosecurity? Extra cattle measures? Pre movement testing? No cattle movements at all? Nope. The answer:
" The fundamental difference between the Thornbury area and other areas [] where bovine tuberculosis was a problem, was the systematic removal of badgers from the Thornbury area. No other species was similarly removed. No other contemporaneous change was identified that could have accounted for the reduction in TB incidence within the area" [157949]

But his masters have spoken, as they also speak on wildlife control - but are you listening Mr. Paice or are your ears tight shut? Tightening up cattle controls will only work if wildlife reservoirs are addressed simultaneously, as our masters in the EU observed in this DG SANCO paper.

In 2009, the UK received 10 million euros for TB 'control' by which Defra meant testing and slaughtering more cattle. This week, Paice dropped this little gem into his NFU speech. He said :
... the European Commission was ‘minded’ to reject the Government’s annual TB Eradication plan, which would result in it withholding €30 million (£25.4m) of EU funding for TB controls. “That would have been pretty disastrous,” he said.
One could say it was pretty disastrous to operate a one sided policy which hoovered up such increasing sums of cash which offer no benefit to taxpayers, farmers or sick badgers, at a time of global austerity. But let that pass. 'We're all in this together' we're told. But that is not quite true. Paice also hinted of a 'share my pain' package for livestock farmers. Nice one.

We have said it before, and will continue to say that current cattle controls are more than adequate (annual testing and double fenced boundaries), provided the maintenance hosts of tuberculosis are removed.

And if these reservoirs are not tackled simultaneously, then no amount of cattle testing, isolation measures or culling will work to reduce the environmental contamination which is fuelling the scourge known as 'bovine'TB.

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