Thursday, April 19, 2018

Another Defra cash snatch? (Updated)

Futher update:

The EU document from which this legislation is spawned, is linked to below. It was published on June 8th 2016 and is quite specific as to the time line - in EU speke.

"This Regulation should be applicable from the first day of the twenty-eighth month after the date it enters into force."
Which is November 1st 2018. The EU document also helpfully explains  

                             HAVE ADOPTED THIS REGULATION:
So having sat on their hands for almost all of that allotted time, Defra now have a consultation out to discuss it. And clarify any misinterpretations in the 3 months before it comes into force.

**The Defra documentation can be accessed here - [link] and must be returned by July 11th.**

But our posting below has already highlighted an unwelcome  side effect of this grindingly boring paperchase. And that refers to the difference - many thousands of £s in some cases - between Defra's perceived 'value' of pedigree animals and non-pedigree casualties of their Animal Health programs.

When cattle become TB 'reactors'. Defra's table valuations swing into action, and in most months, casualties which have a pedigree certificate are 'valued' higher than non-pedigree cattle.

Note: this valuation applies to other Defra Animal Health slaughterings too.

But on November 1st 2018, unless the smaller breed societies get their collective heads together, pedigree cattle registered with them will lose that designation and be paid out as non-pedigree.

All the relevant bedtime reading is contained in this document - [link] which deals with intra community trade in zootechnical products.The document spreads its wings over breed societies and explains how they should / must operate.

The registration of such societies is operated in the UK by the Defra committee known as FaNGR (Farm Animal Genetic Resources committee) whose pedigree and contact details are described here - [link]
This latest tranche of paper appears to owe most of its content to exporting cattle into and around the EU, rather than breed promotion within the UK. But sadly we hear that already some overzealous vets are using it already, to reduce TB compensation paid to owners of pedigree cattle, whose breed societies have not yet made it on to Defra's new list. We also hear that Brexit appears to have stalled some pending registrations.

Here is a snippet from the current legislation - [link]  

.“pedigree animal” means a breeding animal for which a pedigree certificate has been issued by a breeder’s organisation or association that fulfils the conditions  of  Commission Decision 84/247/EEC(a) laying down the criteria for the recognition of breeders’ organisations and associations which maintain or establish herd-books for pure-bred breeding animals of the bovine species;......"

 Notable absentees from Defra's new list include minor beef breeds, such as Salers, Bazadaise, Parthenaise, Gloucesters, Kerry and many more.

Apparently having paid a breed society for membership,  Herdbook registrations and having a pedigree certificate, is not enough. If your breed society is not on this list - [link] then from November 1st.  any reactors will be paid at non-pedigree rates.

 However long their pedigree is.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


We are hearing many heart wrenching tales of lorry loads of cattle, and in some cases whole herds - all headed for premature slaughter after failing the Gamma interferon - [link ] blood test.

We wrote about this test in 2008, and described the problems with it in this posting, [link] where we quoted snippets from the infamous pilot, carried out by Defra into the use and in particular, the specificity (false positives) associated with Gamma - which were summarily dismissed..

These are described in a paper labelled SB4021 - [link] and where those unexpected results - 25 per cent of one herd, expected to be negative results - were ignored.

Comments on the thread above pointed out that the condition of bloods and timing of samples v. their delivery to a laboratory are crucial to results. And the lives of our cattle. And we hear that other countries using the test do not use it as a slaughter test. Results have to be confirmed with a skin test. And in 2006, after the pilot study (which excluded any  results the team did not expect to find) Hansard records thus:
22 May 2006 : Column 1294W Mr. Bradshaw:

It was research project SB4021 ( ) that was established to evaluate the specificity of the gamma interferon (IFNg) test. This project confirmed the findings of previous studies by concluding that the commercially available IFNg test had a specificity of between 95-97 per cent. Findings from SB4021 supported the view that it would be inappropriate to use IFNg for routine screening purposes because it risks producing too many false positive results.

A further roll out of Gamma ifn, by invitation only, failed to attract enough support and petered out.

In the interim, studies found that a priming skin test increased sensitivity of gamma, which got Defra very excited, but we can find nothing to contradict the findings of that Pilot study SB4021. And this showed the ability of gamma to hoover up as positives, many micobacteria in the MTC (Micobacterium Tuberculosis Complex) family. Many of which are widespread and harmless.

So fast forward to 2016 and a 'consultation' to tell us what Defra have in store for our cattle next. And we see this for Gamma ifn in 2017:
Gamma testing is being used in the following circumstances:

"From April 2017, the gamma test will be applied alongside the skin test to help resolve TB breakdowns with lesion and/or culture positive animals in the HRA where any of the following three criteria are met:

* Criterion 1: The APHA veterinary investigation concludes that the most likely bTB transmission route for the affected herd was contact with infected cattle (e.g. via cattle movements, residual cattle infection from a previous TB breakdown, or contact with a contiguous infected herd) and measures are in place to prevent further spread of the disease from this source

* Criterion 2: The infected herd is located in one of the areas where at least two annual rounds of effective licensed badger population control have been completed

* Criterion 3: There is clear evidence that repeat skin testing of the herd has failed to resolve a TB breakdown .
And so it is. With devastating results - especially in herds which fall into criterion 2. i.e, the owners have signed a contract to manage badgers in the area. And having followed the prescribed scatter gun approach to disease control by culling 70 per cent of badgers, on 70 per cent of the area and leaving the rest to wander, if the herd has the misfortune to go under restriction with at least one lesioned or culture positive reactor. Then as we read this, no epidemiological veterinary interpretation of the herd history is needed. Just point and shoot.

The only criteria being a signature, on a contract drawn up at least two years ago.

Thin ice? On a legal basis, we have grave doubts about this. Leaving aside SB4021 and the failings of gamma ifn, so ably covered by Defra's soothingly modelled statistics, can it be legal for one party to add conditions to a contract already signed and paid for?

We pointed this out in this posting - [link] but it has taken a few months to really hit home, in terms of cattle slaughtered in GB which totalled 43,564 last year. The highest ever in our memory.

The use of this screening test has been variously described to us in less than enthusiastic terms  by Veterinary professionals - [link], but the word which stood out is 'madness'. And with that we would not disagree.