This is the story of a beef farmer who is giving up the unequal struggle between his business and badgers infected with tuberculosis.
A story with which we can both empathise and sympathise.
Until 2007 Mervyn Mullard farmed (please note past tense here) 200 head of beef suckler cattle, all bearing his own herdmark - with one exception. The herd bull, which was replaced every 5 or 6 years to avoid inbreeding when his daughters were brought into the herd. And since then, Mr. Mullard has lost 130 of those cattle as reactors to TB.
Left with just 50 cows and their calves, the business is no longer viable, and rather then put himself and his business through this crazy 60 day merry-go-round of testing and slaughter, he accepts that if TB doesn't take the remainder of his cattle, he will let them go by natural wastage. No more heifers will be retained as breeding cattle. The vegans may clap their hands, but buying imported beef to feed the masses, while consigning the British countryside to tuberculous wildlife, in the longterm is not very smart.
Farmers Weekly report that:
Mr Mullard, who farms 200 mixed cattle on his farm in Bishop's Castle, Shropshire, said he had spent nearly 50 years building up his herd, which had remained free of the disease until badger numbers exploded in the area. It has left him in no doubt that a cull has to be part of a series of measures to tackle the disease in cattle and allow healthy wildlife to flourish.
"I want to see healthy badgers and healthy cattle, but at the moment that's not possible. It's left me in the position where I won't be replacing my heifers and will instead be winding down my herd."
"I only used to see one or two badgers across the whole farm, but now I can see 20 badgers in just one field some evenings," he said. "I have even had sick badgers in my garden, which is horrible to see".
"I want to see healthy badgers and healthy cattle, but at the moment that's not possible. It's left me in the position where I won't be replacing my heifers and will instead be winding down my herd."This story is expanded in Farmers Guardian with an intriguing comment about vaccinating these infected badgers, some of which have been seen sick and dying in Mr. Mullard's garden.
Mr. Mullard told Farmers Guardian that:
...he was working with the Badger Trust on a four-year vaccination programme but questioned its effectiveness after only four badgers out of ‘around 50’ were trapped and vaccinated in the first year.
With the rules only allowing [trapping] badgers over two nights he said it was essential that the protocol and methods deployed for vaccinating badgers were improved to make the process more worthwhile.You did read that correctly. Vaccinators are only allowed to trap on two nights, then they have to walk away. If they catch none, they are allowed a further two nights..
And their trapping success rate? Just 4 out of 50?? And those 50 of unknown health status? Madness.
As is wasting taxpayer's money on testing six times a year for 6 years and killing 130 head of cattle from a closed herd, while leaving sick badgers to reinfect and reinfect and reinfect. Spreading the disease both amongst themselves and to any mammal crossing their infectious path. Madness.
About a mad as this carnage, to which we shall return next week with an update.