Monday, June 10, 2013

Incarcerated ... but safe.

There have been many opinions published when dairy farmers consider keeping cattle inside 24/7.

"But they're grazing animals" tweet the Twits. "They must be free  and in the open air. It's not natural to keep them inside all the time."
But what happens when the badgers which have caused the annihilation of one herd, still have the Right to Roam to reinfect the replacements?

In March, we told the story of one such herd, which AHVLA 'depopulated' - which is a fancy word for slaughtered the lot - after a devastating routine test at the end of January. The habitat of the badgers living next to this farm, had been turned into football pitches, hotels and a leisure facilities, thus displacing their food supply. The result appeared to be a doubling of numbers and territorial scrapping on a huge scale for this dairy herd. This combined with very little UV light last summer, and floods.

There wasn't a field on this farm  without contamination by badger faeces - and it was not in latrines. The cows paid the ultimate price.

Gillian Bothwell has now posted an update to her story, on British Farmers Forum.. In her own words:
You may recall that we lost our entire milking herd in February due to a TB breakdown, thought I'd just update where we are up to now: When the last of the cows had left the farm we got stuck into cleansing and disinfecting, what a soul destroying job that is!! All you can think about is the cows that have gone, I never realised just how difficult a cubicle shed is to completely clean to the standard required, hubby took a week out to visit his family in NI as it hit him very hard.

We then badger proofed the sheds and the maize/wholecrop clamps (feed store in an enclosed shed so that was OK) had two inspections by AHLVA before a license finally granted to buy in some cows. Many tears shed during all of this I can tell you!!
Before restocking, AHVLA had put some very stringent conditions on this farm. None included badgers, but all was geared to keeping them away from the dairy cattle. Gillian continues:
Anyway, we had stipulations as to buying in cows - they had to come from farms with a clear TB history so it was going to be pretty difficult finding large numbers here that we could afford. Eventually we spoke to BACA and went to Germany and selected 130 cows and heifers in total on three trips.

Very interesting trips: the farmers over there have very little knowledge of TB and seemed amazed at our situation with regard to us having to slaughter all our cows whilst the badgers run free.
We're amazed at the situation in this country too - but let that pass.

Gillian tells us that the cattle travelled beautifully and have settled in well - "it just takes a little while and some TLC to get them used to new surroundings, new diet and my husbands strong Irish accent!!!"
 The youngstock and calves from the original herd had been grazing well away from the new sports complex and they have once again tested clear.

But what of these new dairy cattle in their hermetically sealed, AHVLA approved, badger proofed box unit?:
We have made the decision to keep the cows inside this summer where they are safe due to the badger proofing, obviously it will cost us more to feed them but we feel to nervous to turn them out. All in all its been completely hellish and I wouldn't want it to happen to anyone, as well as the heartbreak of losing the cows the cost of it all has been massive.

If you take it all in - loss of 4/5 month's milk sales from 140 cows going through the parlour, cost of buying replacements (compensation doesn't cover it) all the work done to the sheds and clamps, cost of feeding calves that we have not been able to sell due to movement restrictions, cost of spring work with no income, I reckon we are well into six figures.

How is a small family dairy farm supposed to stand a hit like that??
So this farm has " milk going out of the yard again," and in July should see a milk cheque. And the Bothwells say that they are " grateful for good friends for their help, suppliers who are working with us and our AHVLA vet has been very supportive and lastly our three little boys who have kept us going through it all. We just have to keep going and hope we can survive it ."

 But those cattle now stay inside because the badgers are still roaming free to infect - again? And as Gillian has said "we can't go through this a second time." One comment on the BFF post asks: "
"So AHVLA have made you expend time, energy and cash before they have allowed you to restock. Have they spent the same in identifying the source of the infection and eliminating it?
If not why not?"
Good question. A case for screening those badgers? Or have the Bothwell's dairy cows got to stay cooped up for the rest of their lives, just to avoid being infected with Zoonotic Tuberculosis by an animal, deemed by some, to be worth more than a cow?

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