Friday, April 25, 2014

TB in camelids - has BAS got the hump?

As we explained in our posting below -[link] a Defra consultation is currently circulating on statutory and voluntary TB eradication measures for deer and camelids - [link]. And the breed society concerned with the latter appear to be less than happy, offering advice to their members to reply to the consultation and 'put pressure on Defra' thus:
Dear Sirs

I/We respond to your consultation document referenced above as follows:

1. Compensation (Question 6) - The compensation currently offered does not reflect an alpaca’s value. I/We insist that you base the compensation on market values as with cattle. The average price of BAS Registered Pedigree Breeding stock we sold last year was £…………. each.

2. Tests used in a breakdown (Question 7) - I/We feel very strongly about the tests used and insist on Enferplex being one of the choices available in all testing scenarios including bTB breakdowns.

3. Prohibition on Vaccination (Question 4) - I/We insist that DEFRA do not impose a blanket prohibition on vaccination until the research results relating to badgers and cattle are published and that further consultation takes place then.
 The whole consultation document can be viewed at the bottom of the Defra sheet in  the above link.

It indicates that identification of camelids and non vaccination or 'treatment' for zTB will be statutory. The rest is apparently up for discussion.

 On BAS's short reply sheet, 'Compensation' for infected animals is always a sticky one. For example, cattle in England are on a derisory tabular valuation, goat farmers, selling valuable products into the human food chain, get none at all, deer farmers (again producing a food product) a gratuitous £650 (or a lower carcase value) and alpacas £750 - if they co-operate with the shambles that is the present zTB non statutory programme for non-bovines.

Defra appear to want a choice of ante mortem tests, and until one is validated as something like accurate for camelids, that would appear to be sensible. We hear that the screening test 'Enferplex' (which BAS seem to prefer), was recently used on a herd of alpacas, which sadly is no more. Many animals had lesions which this test failed to pick up. So apparently 'Enferplex' is not the 'Holy grail' of ante mortem tests at all - or as with the skin test, only if it fails to identify infected animals?
We would agree  that no vaccination programme of any animal should be instigated until the results of the badger vaccination programmes (BVDP)  are known. But as the first BVDP is now entering its 3rd year, and Defra / AHVLA show no inclination to publish the results of sentinel, tested cattle breakdowns in those areas which are indiscriminately jabbing badgers, don't hold your breath. The object of that particular pyramid is to train more vaccinators, and 'build farmer confidence in the concept'.
Remember that. Efficacy of the process is immaterial.

On 'treatment' (with drugs licensed for humans), whether prophylactic or used on infected animals, which is included in this section, the possibility of introducing more drug resistant strains of zTB which may go on to infect humans,  is mind blowingly stupid. Just our opinion of course.

Over the last four years we have been banging on about the numbers of alpacas falling victim to 'bovine' Tuberculosis. In many instances, whole herds have been lost. But to get Defra's statisticians to produce the correct figures for these dead animals, rather than their single confirming microbial sample, has been difficult damn nearly impossible. - [link] Pushing water uphill would have been easier.
But in January, after meeting an alpaca called 'Eddy', newly appointed Defra Minister George Eustice managed to get his department's figures a tad more accurate. And their 17 samples morphed into 592 dead alpacas.

As we remarked at the time, an increase of some magnitude - and they would be only the ones reported to AHVLA / Defra. Many would not have been.

What was even more of a shock however, was sight of tables produced regularly by the alpaca breed society, (BAS) which show the causes of death in animals reported to them. And these tables show that by far the biggest cause of death in alpacas is .... 'bovine' TB - or as we have correctly labelled it, zoonotic Tuberculosis. So despite their email fliers to members stating:
We must let DEFRA know that Alpaca owners care what happens to their animals.
... when it come to zTuberculosis, that particular water is a tad murky.

So we are grateful to the area Welfare reps who receive and have allowed us sight of these BAS figures, which can be viewed on this link - [link] We expect camelid breeders who receive these tables will be grateful for the information too, but curiously, we understand that not all the area Representatives feel able to share it.

To save time we'll paraphrase this snapshot of registered alpaca deaths reported to BAS, and from what they have apparently expired in the year ending 2012, with particular reference to zTB.

Of 1355 alpaca deaths reported to BAS in 2012, 731 (54 per cent) had no postmortem, and their cause of death was described as 'unknown' or 'no reason given'.
Of the remaining 624 deaths reported and a cause confirmed, 383 deaths were either directly from zTuberculosis or the animals were euthanized after failing screening tests on a TB restricted herd.
In their table, BAS describe that figure as '28 per cent' of the total reported deaths - which is high enough. But if those deaths from z TB are taken as a percentage of all alpacas reported dead and to which a cause of death is attributed, the figure is far higher at over 60 per cent.

And yet, this is this same Society which has consistently buried its collective head in the sand over the eradication of this disease from camelids, preferring, like Defra, to hide behind the derisory and misleading figure of the single confirming sample.

And prior to January 2013, when this table appeared - [link] that showed a figure of just 17 in 2012. Problem? What problem? We have no problem.
But judging by BAS's own figures, 383 registered animals did. But we "care what happens to our animals."

Defra's updated TB tables show almost 600 alpaca deaths in 2012. (These will include deaths of non registered animals, and deaths unreported to BAS)

As we have said in previous postings, this disease is no longer a 'bovine' problem.

 Polite Note: Defra's 'other species' figures for 2013 appear to have stalled in August / September of that year: Was it too hot for the computer? Everyone out with their buckets and spades? Easter egg hunt? Come on guys and gals, update those tables. Eight months is too long to wait.

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