Thursday, May 30, 2013

Update on bovine tuberculosis in the EU

We are grateful for updates on the developing situation in parts of mainland Europe, where bovine tuberculosis was thought to have been eradicated. With incidence at or below 0.02 percent of cattle reactors and 0.01 per cent of registered herds, TB Free trading status has been the norm for many parts of Europe for decades. Thus herds were on abattoir surveillance only, but this unfolding story involves wildlife reservoirs and a human case. (For comparison, please note that our incidence of TB in tested GB cattle reveals around 10 per cent of herds with problems and an increasing spread to the north and northeast of the traditional badger havens of the south west.)

We touched on the problems in parts of Bavaria and Switzerland in this posting, also pointing out that once cattle reactors are found, farms can no longer sell milk or meat on the open market.

And in another part of Germany over 100 cattle have tested positive on one farm.
Hemslingen - On Monday morning, more than a hundred cattle Hemslinger cattle and dairy farm have been culled. All animals had been previously tested positive for tuberculosis (TB), a disease that was considered extinct in Germany until 1997. Since then there has been in Germany only isolated cases of bovine tuberculosis, to the infectious disease transmitted by droplets in March occurred in greater numbers in the Allgäu.

The farm in question is about one-third of the stock concerned. The veterinary Rotenburg / Wümme has led ring controls in which a further spread of the disease is to be found on other stocks through sale of fattened animals or infection of animals on neighboring land. "The affected farm in Hemslingen is safe," said district veterinarian Dr. Joachim Wiedner on demand from our newspaper. Provisionally neither dairy animals there may still be recycled sold".
And from this outbreak, a much more worrying connection and a reminder of why we sign up to International directives to control and eradicate tuberculosis - a fatal zoonosis - from any animal host. The farmer concerned has been seriously ill for months, with a disease which should have been consigned to the history books. It is not yet clear whether he infected his cattle, or vice versa. 

Further cattle tracings from Hemslingen have revealed more problems. And more cases are coming to light originating the Allgau region, where the wildlife reservoir in deer has caused havoc along the foothills of that alpine area.

This report explains, and briefly, the translation is this:
In Allgäu Bovine tuberculosis is rampant. Now there is increasing evidence that deer the dreaded epidemic has spread - in other alpine regions. From Lindau to Berchtesgaden cattle now be tested and shot deer increased."

But reports are now coming in from the Ardennes region of France which implicate badgers as a possible wildlife vector.

On the left is page 1 of a poster circulated by the French equivalent of our  AHVLA / Defra. This is to inform about the ravages of 'bovine' tuberculosis on various known wildlife hosts. 

And this is rough translation, describing the postmortem of a second tuberculous badger, in the Ardennes, courtesy of our colleague in Bavaria:

"Another Badger was diagnosed with symptoms of bovine tuberculosis . This time, it is a male who was taken on May 5 Contreuve commune, at a place called The Aspière. He was transported to the laboratory of department of Hagnicourt analyzes.

There, an autopsy and samples were taken. "The results of this animal have to highlight the DNA of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex," said in a statement the prefecture. The strain in question is close, as the first badger, from that detected on households and cattle Semide Sugny (our editions of 18 and 25 May). "At this stage it is impossible to conclude that a significant infection of wildlife in this area," he said.
"[We] must await the results of all the trappings to assess the rate of infection in the Semide-Contreuve-Sugny area. "In fact, more than 80 badgers will be captured".

It's good to see that France takes wildlife reservoirs of tuberculosis seriously. We have open days to find them new homes.

Page 2 of this  graphic poster from France carries post mortem pictures of the effects of tuberculosis in a badger ( un blaireau) deer (un cerf / biche) and wild boar (un sanglier).

While in Great Britain, we prefer the black and white image at the start of this posting.

And airbrush the consequences of tuberculosis on anything it may have contact with.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Management v. a mathematical modeled cull?

Today the press is full of  Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson's comments as the June 1st start date for a pilot cull of badgers approaches. The firewall protected Sunday Times has this taster:
OWEN PATERSON, the environment secretary, has drawn up plans for a big expansion of badger culling — including allowing farmers the freedom to shoot the animals — before the first two controversial trial culls have even begun.

Paterson wants to create 40 more cull zones in the next four years as part of a drive to eradicate bovine TB, the deadly disease transmitted between cattle and badgers. The two planned trial culls, scheduled to start in Somerset and Gloucestershire next Sunday,will see the killing of 5,000 badgers.
The badgerists are predictably 'outraged', 'horrified' and every other adjective they can trawl up, to describe this 'murderous carnage'. Predictably ignoring the root cause of the target - tuberculosis.
We find an intriguing paradox in this attitude, especially from cheerleader Dr. Brian May. The newspapers had a field day last year when he announced that as he knew nothing about 'management' of woodland and its fauna, while he had cuddled Brock, he had no qualms about shooting Bambi.

And this we think, is the key.  Since the mid 1980s, the badger population has had no 'management' to keep it stable within a shrinking environment. Unfettered breeding, linked to an infinite feed supply has ensured a recorded growth of 77 per cent in the decade to 1997. That was 16 years ago. And in 1997, the infamous moratorium on culling badgers in response to disease, ensured that more infected ones survived to spread their lethal load - and 'scientist's' largesse. We don't call this crazy and dangerous situation a 'beneficial crisis' for nothing.

So could the situation have been handled better? For sure it could; particularly if the public had access to the full story that Defra is not telling. No single species should be a target at all. But tuberculosis, a disease to which successive governments have signed international directives to eradicate, most certainly is.

But in parallel to the badgerists, our lords and masters are hooked firmly onto the convenience of a dead cow's tail. Cattle. Cattle Cattle - ignoring the blindingly obvious overspill which we explored in this posting.

As more sheep flocks and free range pigs herds are restricted, and alpacas and other pets and companion mammals die, the conditions over the last eighteen months have created the perfect storm for the spread of tuberculosis from its primary maintenance host. Badgers. A cool and very wet, dull summer ensured infection on cattle grazing stayed for weeks, available to any other mammal. The months of continuous rain and floods, caused badger setts to become waterlogged, and while they appreciate an occasional dip, they do like a dry bed. Those which didn't drown in flooded meadows, moved, causing the social perturbation notorious for the spread of the disease which they host.

Thus this spring's cattle slaughterings are at an all time high with 6000 animals slaughtered in January and February and whole herds slaughtered in many areas. The sheep and pig casulalties continue to be dumbed down and their devastated owners locked on the hamster wheel of Defra's test and slaughter cattle policy, while their animals are exposed to continued infection as they graze.

So to return to our title question. Owen Paterson is quoted as saying he predicts a '25 year cull' of badgers. And then what? 'Management' of this highly protected but also highly infectious animal would be a better description, responding to pockets of sentinel reactors. And that strategy has no time limit.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Badger tuberculosis - in pictures

This simple but important video illustrates the ravages of badger tuberculosis on badgers.  It provides a graphic example of how these poor animals become such a weapon of mass destruction to many other mammals when they are so infected.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A catch up...

Apologies - blogging light recently. Our main editor is selling shed loads of cattle after a flat test ... so that's the main (and very good) reason. So in this posting, we'll link to other stories so that readers can catch up on TB news.

 Not so good is news from Shropshire of a positive test on a valuable show calf, only born in February. Farmers Guardian has the story:
Last week the Platt family, from Weston, near Shrewsbury, arranged pre-movement tests on a group of eight animals to ensure they could attend local shows in the early part of the season, building up to the National Charolais show at the NEC and the Royal Welsh Show in July.
Among the group was champion Charolais heifer Lindford Frankie, who last year picked up 10 breed titles, as well as reserve female at the Royal Welsh Show, having enjoyed similar success in 2011.

Also tested was Frankie’s daughter, Lindford Imogen, born in February. But on Friday came the bombshell that she alone of the group had come out as a reactor.
Another bombshell this week was the discovery, in a 4 year testing area, of a cluster of new breakdowns on the Cumbria / Lancashire border. Until some strain typing (spoligotyping) is done - always assuming there are bacteria to culture - then it is speculation as the source of this one. But our own gut feeling is that with a 'cluster' of several farms affected, it ain't cattle.
 This is where post movement testing of cattle moving to a 4 year area is vital. But so is control on the movement of any susceptible mammal, and especially translocated badgers coming to an orchard near you.

Our Secretary of State, Owen Paterson MP has recently returned from a fact finding mission to Australia and New Zealand.
He described how in Australia bTB had been ‘absolutely rampant’ in both cattle and buffalo over ‘vast areas of difficult terrain’.

A ‘huge programme’ of cattle measures combined with culling buffalo - in the face of fierce public opposition – has brought TB levels in cattle down below the 0.2 per cent threshold required for Australia to regain international ‘TB free status’, he said.
This would be the Australian BTEC programme which we told you about in this 2008 post.

And in New Zealand, another wildlife reservoir in the brush tailed possum - which Mr Paterson described as as an ‘alien animal’ that came to the country from Australia - had evolved populations of which were ‘absolutely out of control’. That sounds familiar.

This is the graph of New Zealand's success. Or, you could turn it upside down and see our progress (in red)
 in the graph below.

The grey line is Ireland's which is also achieving success by tackling tuberculosis - wherever it lurks and in so doing, halving the number of sentinel cattle killed..

This graph shows 38,000 cattle slaughtered by AHVLA in Great Britain last year.

2012 was one of the highest on record - despite numerical back flips by the Badgerists to scalp the official figures.