Saturday, April 18, 2015

Some good news

Western Morning News reported this week, that after several years of TB restrictions, Gordon Tully, - [link] was finally cleared of herd restrictions. Mr. Tully, breeder of prize winning South Devon cattle, is now clear to show and sell his cattle.

We told his story in this 2009 posting - [link] where Mr. Tully, whose herd had been clear of TB for 63 years, informed a senior civil servant - [link] that a third of his pedigree herd had been killed unnecessarily.

Mr. Tully's Lib-Dim MP, Adrian Sanders, reportedly told the farmer that "culling badgers was cruel".

However a Lancashire vet, who arrived to do the risk assessment for Mr. Tully's breakdown was more forthright as Mr Tully pointed out:
"I told a vet who came down from Lancashire to do a risk assessment on my farm that I was farming with one armed tied behind my back. He said; ‘yes and with a blindfold on as well’.
He understood the difficulties.

Some of the comments below this article are predictable. And wrong.

Mr. Tully's herd had had no cattle contact, and with few if any bought in cattle, this herd, on annual testing had remained clear of TB for 63 years, as had many of us.
So where do these spurious claims of a rubbish skin test (comments below the article) come from?

We suggest it is from that tome of multiple assumptions, the ISG Final Report, where on page 140, 7:4 the group postulate that :
"If, for example, the true sensitivity of the [skin] test is 75 per cent, infection will remain in one in four herds ...... etc. etc."
Delete the first three words, and bingo. But despite these grammatical gymnastics over how accurate the skin test actually is, the evidence from around the world suggests that in the absence of a wildlife reservoir, it works just fine. It is the primary test, compulsory under OIE (Office des Epizooties) and rubber stamped under EU Directive 64/432/EEC.

Our Parliamentary Questions confirm that its sensitivity at standard interpretation is up to 95 per cent, with specificity up to 99 per cent. [150495]
 It is intended and designed as a herd test, not for individual animals and another PQ reminded us that:
"All countries that have eradicated, or have a programme to control bTB, use one or more forms of the skin test." [ 150492]
"Evidence from other countries shows that, in the absence of a significant wildlife reservoir, cattle controls based on regular testing and slaughter, including abattoir surveillance and movement restrictions [] can be effective at controlling bTB." [15906]
All those PQs are from 2004.

But think about it: if the skin test was missing shed loads of cattle, then that abattoir surveillance - [link] designed for exactly the purpose of finding TB lesions, would be finding the 25 per cent of the annual kill that the skin test missed, would it not?

Wind up your calculators dear readers, because there are too many noughts for us in that Defra paper.

But briefly, out of 11.1 million animals from TB free herds, passing under the MHS officer's TB inspection microscope 2009 - 2013, just 5,366 samples proved positive for m.bovis. We cannot find any more details as to whether these samples were from old, walled up lesions, or active disease. But nevertheless, the figures and evidence from around the world do not support the ISG's mischievous assumption that 'If for example....' the skin test is rubbish.

On the other hand, FERA now confirm that the figure of 43 percent infectivity which they confirm was  'typical of the level'  found in badgers in the endemic areas of TB, has now increased to 52 per cent.

So in a nutshell, (information offered by FERA itself)   if you have the misfortune to farm livestock in an area of endemic TB, half the badgers urinating across your pastures, coughing into your maize and dying in your ditches are infected with bTB.

So what the hell do we expect when we test cattle who have had the misfortune to stumble over that level of environmental contamination? That question was rhetorical, by the way.

And enjoy the freedom to trade your lovely cattle, Mr. Tully. After 7 years and  40 herd tests, you've earned it.

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