Friday, October 19, 2012

An unlevel crack down ?

Announced today is a further unraveling of many of the measures introduced over the last decade to allow cattle farmers to 'live with' TB herd restrictions. The cynical amongst us have long concluded that politicians, and through them Defra, will do anything but tackle TB in badgers, hence a raft of licensed movements to enable farming businesses to continue to trade.

But on the back of  EU cash and pressure for harmonisation of tuberculosis control across the Community, pretty well all of these opportunities have now been closed. Farmers Guardian report that the latest clamp downs include:
* Farmers who have had TB on their farm – in all cases - will not be allowed to bring new cattle in until the rest of the herd has been tested for TB and a vet has carried out an assessment.

* Farmers to have just 30 days, (down from 60) to move cattle that test negative for TB from a TB breakdown farm.

* Approved Quarantine Units (AQUs), units for calves from TB breakdown farms, will not be able to take on any more calves from the New Year.

* Conditions Approved Finishing Units (AFUs), which take clean cattle from infected farms for fattening before slaughter, to be ‘strictly monitored’, and will lose their licenses for serious breaches.
Note: The 30 day movement window may apply to all tested movements and not just from TB restricted farms. We will try to clarify this. Similarly  'orange' markets which were also under fire don't seem to be mentioned. And  we note that the closing of AQUs means many more calves will be shot at birth.

These measures will also see several more counties East and N/E of Defra's red area ,(already extended, see map below) hoovered up into an annual testing regime. These include Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Hampshire and East Sussex.

The latest report from DG SANCO came to the following conclusions:
It is however of utmost importance that there is a political consensus and commitment to long-term strategies to combat TB in badgers as well as in cattle.

The Welsh eradication plan will lose some impetus as badger culling will now be replaced with badger vaccination. This was not part of the original strategy that consisted of a comprehensive plan that has now been disrupted.

There is no scientific evidence to demonstrate that badger vaccination will reduce the incidence of TB in cattle. However there is considerable evidence to support the removal of badgers in order to improve the TB status of both badgers and cattle.

UK politicians must accept their responsibility to their own farmers and taxpayers as well as to the rest of the EU and commit to a long-term strategy that is not dependent on elections.

The TB eradication programme needs continuity and it must be recognised that success will be slow and perhaps hard to distinguish at first. There is a lot of skill and knowledge among the veterinary authorities and they must be allowed time to use it.
We discussed the paper in this posting, but having ramped up the EU harmonisation of cattle controls, we see no sign of a widespread, parallel targeted action taken on wildlife reservoirs, to prevent their infection in the first place.

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