Saturday, March 17, 2018

The end of the line

Over the last few years, we've told the story of a farming couple, their fight both with zoonotic tuberculosis in their cattle which wiped out the whole herd, the debacle of misinformation which accompanied their restocks, and finally today, the end of line for a business and and a marriage.

 In 2013, Louis and Gillian Bothwell gave us the inside story of their lovely herd of cattle - and empty sheds. - [link]
Farmers Guardian - [link] told the story in more detail in Gillian's own words. And we compared the trauma of these losses - [link] to Defra's antics over FMD.

 After the restocking, we revisited Louis and Gillian's story and were shocked to find they were still in deep trouble. Louis had been persuaded by his Defra case officer to buy Holstein heifers from Europe. He reccomended northern Germany as a source of TB free cattle. But  within six weeks of arriving in the UK, many were diagnosed with Johne’s disease.

 They also proved to have very high cell counts and losses were considerable.

 Within the first year, and by the time the remaining replacement animals calved for the second time, one third of them were dead or slaughtered because of Johne’s disease.

Veterinary professionals confirm that tests for Johne’s are unreliable and unless clinical disease has been confirmed, single positive test results should be treated with care. These restocks were clinical.

We understand that there are known hotspots for this disease in Germany, and the area from which Louis Bothwell sourced his 'TB free replacements', as instructed by his Defra case officer, is one of them.

 Thus two years on from the trauma of losing a herd of homebred UK cattle to TB, Louis and Gillian were faced with losing their German replacements to Johne’s.

And in a routine TB test in 2016, with no action taken on the farm’s wildlife vectors, the remaining cattle were once again under TB restriction.

 That proved the final straw. As they calved, those remaining cattle were sent to direct slaughter.

Most of the farm is now let out on contract for maize and potato growing, with just a handful of acres let as grass keep. There are no dairy cows and the buildings lie empty; the unintended consequences of successive governments’ non-policy on ‘bovine’ Tuberculosis and misplaced advice from its officers.

 Sadly it has also proved the final straw for this young couple's marriage, as well as their dreams and investments. Farmers Guardian - [link] carries the story this week.

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