Sunday, December 23, 2018

Merry Christmas!

It's been a difficult year for many of us. The weather has played a few nasty tricks, and left its mark on fodder stocks and straw prices. The prolonged dry period which followed compounded this, but typing this on a dull, wet Sunday afternoon, some sunshine would be good.

A few notices have been posted in the last month, possibly the most important is how successful the culling areas -[link] have been. A total of 32,600 badgers have now been removed. Which is a sobering reminder that in the early 1970s, the Mammal Society put the total number of badgers in GB at an estimated 35,000.

 Below is a snapshot of the 2018 cull totals, with Areas 1 and 2 omitted as these pilots are now into their follow up strategy of maintenance. The report explains:
Given the ongoing reduction in badger population estimates in Areas 3 to 21 since the start of their licences, these areas will see the benefits of reduced disease in cattle over their four year cull period. The initial cull areas are starting to see these benefits, with the number of new confirmed cattle breakdowns dropping by around 50%. (Fifty per cent)

In Area 1, the incidence rate has dropped from 24% to 12% in the twelve months following its fourth year of culling. Similar results were observed in Area 2, which dropped from 10.4% to 5.6%. A full analysis of the data, similar to that of Brunton et al. in 2017 is underway and will be published in due course.
A link to the Brunton paper is in this posting - [link]

And here are the 2018  badger removal figures:

Latest news from one cull area in North Cornwall - [link] also reports a significant drop in cases of TB in cattle, after just three years of badger culling. Farmers Weekly has the story. Long may it continue.

Conversely we have seen both politicians and Z list eco-slebs, playing to a gullible media, hurling equal parts of bile and blame against cattle farmers. Scratching up isolated cases of reactor fraud and making a huge meal of what is a very small proportion of millions of tests.

We cannot defend any fraudulent testing - be that by farmers or vets. And the sooner all compensation, tabular or valued is removed from perpetrators, and testing licences removed from vets found guilty, the better.

 Bio-security accusations are also an ongoing niggle, when the primary culprit of disease spread enjoys ultimate protection, wherever it walks, and in whatever state of health it may be in.

We would also point out that the ongoing support for badger vaccination is as big a red herring as it ever was. And no amount of BCG at 10x the strength for a human being, jabbed indiscriminately into the backside of any passing badger is going to make any difference to cattle TB in the area (as Wales has found)

In fact it could be said that by increasing the available bacteria into a candidate already infected with zTB, that badger will be uplifted into 'super excreter' status. And the amount of bacteria he will excrete, before he eventually expires in a most horrible fashion, could bring down a herd of cattle with no help from his sett mates at all.

 Game, Sett and match.

So to all our contributors, in whatever part of the world you may be, our grateful thanks for your stories, experiences and technical help.

A Merry Christmas and a peaceful TB free New Year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Magic Roundabout / Fake News.

Several press releases this week, combined with a flurry of pro zoonotic tuberculosis splutterings from a hitherto unknown to us group known as the Prion interest Group - [link]
From BSE to zTBin one seamless leap then?

Writing to Defra's new Chief vet, (Christine Middlemiss) this was heavily reported in that most unbiased of our broadcasting media, they accuse Defra of "barefaced lies" - [link] That was on the 12th November.

 Of course it would have been helpful if when the pilot culls began, all those years ago, if Defra had published results. They are there, but they are sparse. Nevertheless, Lucy Brunton et al, did do some modelling and drew out figures for Gloucestershire and Somerset cull areas, compared with non cull areas  for 2013 - 15. These were published, but in the morass of figures, it took a humble vet and his calculator to extrapolate the end result of a 58 per cent drop in cattle TB in Gloucestershire and 21 per cent in Somerset. We covered the story in this posting - [link]

The Prion Group missed them.As they missed this snippet:

3rd para on page one of the report,

Err, yes, Pretty obvious? But invisible just the same.

There have been numerous past historical culls, designed to prove the obvious, and which are conveniently ignored by those intent on riding this roundabout of denial and research. (Credit for those figures go to BovineTB information)

Then today, 13th November, Defra released their update on the 25 year plan to rid the country of zoonotic tuberculosis. The full package is here- [link] and dutifully the BBC - [link] reported some startling headlines concerning culling of badgers.

 "A modest effect on cattle TB" is the most glaring headline, given that the Defra  comment is based on that most political of trials, the RBCT which began 21 years ago and had, its leader - [link] .. explained with such pride, a political steer from its onset.
Culling badgers at the end of his 8 day forays, then walking away for a year or more, was not going to be the answer.
There is nothing at all on the current farmer led (and funded) culls. How's that for Fake News?

So Defra's latest plan is a brand new quango to hoover up all things badgery, a proposal to make farmers insure against a wildlife reservoir of disease over which they have little legal control and compensation reduced or abandoned on the back of insurance levies.

Farmers have to 'own' the disease, they say.

 For those of us who had ring fenced farms, no bought in cattle and still years and years of restriction, dead cattle with no insurance offered as 'exposure to risk was too high,' that is a damned insult.

We'll 'own' it if you remove the straightjacket .

 But we'll finish this posting on a happier note. We are hearing farmers who have had continuous 60 day testing, reactors and stress for years. Decades in some cases, and after just a few years of a 42 night cull, lambasted by the animal loving public with nothing whatsoever to lose from complaining, and propped up by political scientists and vets, they are now trading TB free.

 One such story below, is told in the farmer's own words.

"We’ve gone TB free. In theory we are now onto annual testing for the first time in 10 years. For the first six years of that, each year the TB got worse then the cull started in our area. Since then our incidence of TB has dropped year on year here with us going clear in the spring three years in a row only to fail in autumn, but with less cases each time.
Then this February we went clear and now our 2 inconclusives have gone clear this autumn meaning we haven’t had a cow with TB for 14 months.
So if proof was needed that the cull has a place in the eradication of TB we are living proof of it.

So today I have mixed feelings. I’m elated that we in theory don’t have to put our stock through the misery of testing for a whole yr.
But I’m also angry. Angry at the NFU and MAFF for allowing this insidious disease to spread when it was so very nearly eradicated. Angry at our politicians for designating the badger a protected species without considering the consequences it would have on the balance of the countryside and those of us who derive a living from it.
Badgers , hedgehogs, ground nesting birds have all suffered as a direct result of this interference.
Lastly I’m angry at those, how ever well meaning, who think the life of a badger is worth more than the life of one of my cows.
To you I say congratulations for the misery you have cause many people and cattle over the last number of yrs and not forgetting the infected badgers who have been suffering and playing their part in spreading this devastating disease within their community and beyond.
I hope you have the decency to admit and reflect on the role you have played in its spread at a time when maybe just maybe we are getting to grips with it."

We thank this SW dairy farmer for that heart warming story. And fully expect it'll take Defra 20 years to catch up with or publish current farmer led cull results.

This magic roundabout of spurious research, sparse excuses and misery has led us to a situation where a trade ban is likely. The chart below tracks the progress of TB 'eradication' in cattle through decades, overlaid with various Ministerial non-policies.
And see what happens when badger control is loosened and finally abandoned in 1997?

Under no circumstances is that anything that we would be proud to 'own'.