Monday, December 31, 2012

More cattle measures - that'll do it...

On January 1st  2013, more cattle measures will be heaped onto GB's long suffering cattle farmers. We described them in October, and in this article, Farmers Guardian reported the bones of what was to come. They expanded a little more last week.

The EU's cash hand out for TB eradication comes with caveats for its use, so all the tweaks that Animal Health and their predecessors, the State Veterinary Service had put in place to enable farmers to 'live with' TB restriction over the years of their badger worship, are, with indecent haste, being unravelled. But still with no strategic parallel action on this most successful  much loved, iconic assets  of wildlife reservoirs.

In brief, the New Year brings trading opportunities which are severely curtailed. The movement window after a clear test shrinks to a mythical 30 days for herds under restriction. We say 'mythical' because that particular clock starts ticking on jab day, which means the first week is lost. So in effect farmers will be lucky to move tested cattle inside 22 days: throw in a couple of bank holidays and weekends together with a ten day notice period for AHVLA licensing, and the word we are searching for is .... 'stuffed'.

 Buyers with new herd breakdowns, often desperate to keep up milk volumes or slaughter throughput, will have to run the gauntlet of at least one 60 day herd test, and then a satisfactory AHVLA risk assessment before a license to purchase in can be considered. And the lifeline of Approved Quarantine Units (AQUs) for young calves from restricted herds ends now.

How we read that is that any calves purchased from TB restricted herds have to be taken through to slaughter. We'll stand corrected if this is wrong. Historically, the Approved Finishing Units have paid reasonable money for forward stock close to slaughter weights, but absolute peanuts for anything younger. So these calves may not have a sale value at all.

Pre movement tests for shows, and linked holdings have yet to feel the full force of restrictions on their movements. 

The comment sections of the farming press are full of gleeful and frequent 'Anonymous' jibes, that 'bovine' TB is being stamped down on. This is a disease of cattle, they tweet. So these measures should stop this disease in its brutal tracks, should it not? But what these people do not realise is that all these cattle-only measures have been tried before - and failed. Spectacularly, expensively and utterly.

We discussed Ireland's Liam Downie's attempts in an earlier posting, and even earlier than this, the late William Tait had no success at all, by nailing West Cornwall's cattle to the floor. Why would they, when the problem wasn't the tested sentinel cattle at all?

 But cattle farmers will no doubt accept this latest kick in the teeth tranche of rules and regulations with their usual stoicism because if these single species commentators are correct, then vaccinating their chosen species badgers and gluing cattle in one place should stop this epidemic in its tracks, shouldn't it?

So how long do we have to wait for failure this time? We now have over 10 per cent of GB herds under TB restriction in Defra's last twelve month period to report. Appalling. The NBA (National Beef Association) report that South Africa have already issued a ban on beef from cattle herds under TB2 restriction and although this being challenged "a positive outcome could take some time".

 And remember Russia? We do. We covered an previous international skirmish in several postings made during September and October 2004.

 And we also remember the parallel actions described by the European Union's DG SANCO, in the documents which proposed these cattle measures. But for your reference we will repeat them:
"The elimination or reduction of the risk posed by an infected wildlife reservoir enables the other measures contained in the programme to yield the expected results, whereas the persistence of TB in these wildlife populations impedes the effective elimination of the disease. Major socio-political resistance (lobbyism) against any measure involving the removal of infected wildlife or interventions affecting the environment are to be expected. The additional costs associated with these actions are not likely to be negligible".
But their latest report on GB's efforts to slaughter out its cattle industry was the hardest hitting yet:
"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."

So we close 2012 with a toast to ... what? Blinkered stupidity? Government policy driven by vociferous, misinformed focus groups which has resulted in the unfettered spread to many mammalian species, including human beings, of that iron jacketed, zoonotic bacterium known as M. bovis?

Or the beginning of the end of of all that, with a balanced and tightly targeted eradication policy for Tuberculosis - wherever it is hiding.

We'll drink to that one, because despite the title of this posting, cattle measures alone will never 'do it'.

A Happy New year.

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