04 July 2015 | Online since 2003

Farmer responsibility key to TB control says beef association

30 October 2013 03:51:03|Animal Health,Cattle,News

Farmer responsibility 'key to TB control', says beef association

Farmers must take responsibility for TB control on their own farms, the chairman of the National Beef Association's TB committee Bill Harper said, maintaining that it is making a 'critical difference' between the two trial badger cull areas.

Harper said farmers in Somerset have shouldered responsibility for appointing and coordinating the marksmen employed.

In contrast, the Gloucestershire area has not seen such a hands-on approach from those directly affected by bovine TB. Harper believes that this made a significant difference in results achieved between the two areas.

Speaking at an NBA meeting in West Cornwall, Harper went on to say that the farmers of West Penwith would soon face a set of difficult decisions around their localised control programme.

In the first six weeks of the pilot cull, 708 badgers were removed, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This represents just over 30 per cent of the revised local badger population of 2,350.

Harper was sceptical about the short term prospects for a badger gassing programme.

“Foam gas, as used to slaughter diseased chicken, offers the most practical option,” advised Mr Harper. “Gassing is preferable to trapping and shooting, but to date there is no gas licensed for use with badgers, and that is five years away.”

To build on the trial cull results, Harper encouraged farmers to support a professional roll-out programme. It will require an experienced and professional fulltime manager. Funding such a move could cost as little as £2.50 per animal per year.

The farmers of North Cornwall are gearing-up to make their contribution to such a scheme, said Harper; and he looks for a similar commitment from West Penwith.

Turning to vaccination, Mr Harper was clear that the best place to deploy stocks is in an area between the Manchester Ship Canal and the Humber, a distance of only 37 miles. Creating a ‘firewall’ across this short distance can maintain the free status of the north, while farmers tackle the issue from the south upwards.

West Penwith is the natural starting point for such a project, and farmers will have the support of Secretary of State, Owen Patterson.



30-10-2013 13:59 PM | Posted by: Clued-Up
On whatever measure you take the badger cull has failed abysmally, costing tax-payers and landowners £millions for no return.

It hasn't worked now, won't work in the future and will be cancelled if there's a change of government or Owen Paterson gets sacked (which is quite probable). Why not accept this failure and start working on Plan B (which is cattle vaccination and DIVA within 3 years)?

30-10-2013 15:02 PM | Posted by: Pixy Harris
What cynical, cruel people these farmers are - and how stupid to blindly follow Owen Paterson, whose methods ignore science in favour of superstition. Farmers should take more responsibility in hygiene and rigorous control over what cattle come onto their farms.

30-10-2013 19:04 PM | Posted by: David Beckham
why don't farmers just carry on gassing badgers illegally they know they will have no one to answer to Paterson & his crazy gang ( nfu) can do whatever they want & nobody questions it.

30-10-2013 22:50 PM | Posted by: Thy Hardwick

In a commercial world where profit comes before people badgers come pretty low on the list of concerns. Bovine TB is spreading because the farmers do NOT take adequate precautions when moving their cattle to market auctions ..where inadequate but basic regulations of cleanliness and chemical disinfectant procedures are ignored by the market managers, staff and farmers alike.

31-10-2013 07:21 AM | Posted by: Roger Broad
I would ask all to consider what is happening at the moment and the Politics being played out. It is no way forward. There are also too little facts being given about vaccination progress for both cattle and wildlife as there are about timescales for its development and implementation. It is easy to see why Farmers are angry now , because what is going on between Owen Paterson and the NFU is flawed, expensive and controversial. Somebody needs to start talking sense. I post this balanced view from a Farmer, makes good sense to me. Control of a species humanely is one thing , this indiscriminate slaughter to eradicate tb is another. Protest, controversy and TB will not go away under this present methodology.

Printer FriendlyTell a Friend
30 Oct 2013, 9:18 AM
To understand bovine TB one must first understand how significantly livestock husbandry practices have changed in recent years. I was on a dairy farm a couple of years ago - a closed herd (one that reared all its own replacement youngstock) - which had had its first bTB breakdown. Two veterinarians had arrived to do the follow-up sixty day retest. Talking to them I asked what they thought was the source of the problem. Their immediate response was that the adjacent dairy farm had purchased imported cattle the previous year, this herd had subsequently developed bTB and passed the infection either directly or via a vector to the neighbouring herd. Whether the imported cattle were themselves carriers of bTB or whether they had no immunity, I do not know and I assumed the vets did not know but the issue of cattle importation is a major concern for both farmers and vets. Ever increasing numbers of dairy cattle are being imported simply because they are cheaper if large enough numbers are purchased. I know of a herd of over two thousand dairy cows where not a single replacement animal is home-reared, every single one arrives on a lorry from mainland Europe.

The traditional nucleated dairy farm with all the cattle managed within walking distance of the buildings, that is a very static population, is increasingly being replaced by much larger herds with a much more mobile population where groups of cattle, especially youngstock, can be kept at a considerable distance from the milking herd and there is continual movement of cattle between two or more sites. They live in an environment and amidst a wildlife population that is alien to them and any immunity of place that that might bestow. There are innumerable stories of cattle being sent from clean land (ie farms where bTB is not present) to infected land and back again with obvious dire consequences. In a recent case one hundred and twenty youngstock were sent away from the home farm for rearing, only thirty returned, the remainder being condemned. Little wonder so many cattle need to be imported.

This is all to the exasperation of neighbouring farmers with stable herds who are powerless to do anything to counteract this obvious threat to their livelihoods from beyond their boundary. It is useless in calling for a static badger population, as so many experts do, whilst having such a mobile cattle population. There is no restriction on how many times a bovine is moved, a current Cattle Passport can be used for reporting six movements. When all these are completed another passport is simply reissued.

The commonly accepted idea that cattle are infected by bTB whilst grazing is very much open to question. Cattle are very choosy eaters, will invariably smell forage before eating it and will not even graze anything that has been flattened by rabbits or hares, never mind fouled by badgers or foxes. That is of course if they are well-fed and managed. Needless to say, not all are. Herds are much larger, stockmen have many more animals to look after and there are simply not enough good stockmen about anymore. The emergence in the last ten years of large dairy herds employing a “New Zealand” system of management is causing much concern. All the cows calve down in early spring, milk until early winter with virtually no buildings for shelter and virtually all feed fed and stored in fields with obvious implications for contamination by wildlife. At certain times of year, and especially in severe weather in the last few years, the cattle literally scour the ground and fodder selection becomes impossible. Hardened farmers, never mind local residents, are appalled at the sight of some of these herds, both the condition of the animals and the state of the fields. Without a doubt some of these herds are well-managed, but some have huge livestock movements with at times hundreds of animals being moved tens of miles from season to season, some have persistent bTB problems, a few are now riddled with salmonella.

Forty years ago, grass silage began to replace hay as a bulk feed for cattle. Subsequent to that, some of this silage began to be replaced by maize silage. Unfortunately, badgers adore ripening and ripened maize and it is often argued that the explosion in the badger population has coincided with the increasing acreage under maize cultivation. As well as feeding cattle, farmers are inadvertently feeding badgers. In many maize crops in autumn, you can see evidence of badgers pulling down cobs. But it is when the crop is ensiled in storage clamps that the real problem begins. As they feed, the badgers inevitably urinate and defecate. The maize et al is placed into mixer wagons which homogenise the ration to the nth degree before being fed to the cattle. The cow is unable to select her food as every mouthful has become identical. The result is rather too obvious, leading to a similar course of transmission as with leptospirosis from rodents to cattle, though fortunately vaccines have been available for many years for leptospirosis.

Some livestock feed specialists observe the poor health status of badgers as a problem to be rectified and advise cattle farmers to feed minerals (usually with molasses as a base) close to setts. The theory is that healthier badgers will be less likely to be infected by bTB. It echoes research in the past where dairy youngstock fed on high energy diets (maize is an unbalanced high energy, low protein feedstuff), although reaching sexual maturity and milk production early had poor health status, poor lifetime production and were often culled prematurely. The theory is however untested and could simply attract more badgers to an area and thus lead to an increase in population. The very idea of feeding supplements to wild animals is problematic and somewhat half-baked.

A huge part of the bTB problem is the present compensation system which is simply sustaining the situation. I know of farmers who get advice on how to reduce the incidence of bTB on their holdings from vets, from neighbouring farmers, from their staff, even from members of their own family, and yet do absolutely nothing. They regard compensation as a divine right and if cattle have to be slaughtered they simply take the money to purchase replacements. The system is rapidly becoming financially unviable both in terms of condemned livestock and compulsory testing and it is inevitable that compensation will reduce and disappear.

Although I farm in a bTB hot spot, in over thirty years to date I have never had an animal fail a test. But I do take sensible precautions: ring-fencing the land to prevent contact with neighbouring livestock, minimising the number of cattle movements on and off the farm, feeding fodder and most certainly corn where it is innaccessible to wildlife, only having drinking water available from clean troughs, and so on. The TV presenter Adam Henson is a typical example of how not to manage livestock and it is no wonder that he is continually talking about the problems he has with bTB testing. Endless livestock movements, feeding fodder adjacent to badger setts (utterly appalling), feeding corn in troughs at ground level, allowing cattle access to the local stream might look cute and idyllic but takes no account of the erosion and fouling, the list goes on. It is simply poor livestock husbandry.

Despite much slaughter of badgers over many years, whether it be by gassing, shooting, poisoning or simply roadkill, the population appears to be increasing. The similarity with what has happened to grey squirrel numbers is striking- individual farming estates with large areas of woodland have trapped and despatched thousands of squirrels annually over many years with no apparent reduction in numbers. And squirrels are also becoming increasingly attracted to maize with many anecdotes last winter of them raiding crops which were unharvestable due to the wet weather. When bTB first became a major problem in this area, I was told by vets how to eradicate badgers from the land without any trace of them being found. Thus far I have not taken any action though the number of badger latrines and pasture digging at certain times of year does become disconcerting. Indeed, until the mid-nineteen eighties I had never seen a badger, live or dead, and most certainly not in mid-winter. Nowadays throughout the year in the hours before dawn I sometimes see them scurrying down country roads or farm tracks. And the amount of fresh roadkill at dusk or daybreak never ceases to amaze. But the remnants of these bodies can still be seen weeks later, an obvious source of disease and infection, any trace of bTB seeping into watercourses or being spread by scavenging birds or mammals. To even begin a bTB eradication policy, the roadkill must first be removed and disposed of correctly. And if badger numbers are to be reduced then much more skilled methods need to be enforced than the haphazard and uncoordinated techniques outlined above.

As a young dairy farmer thirty years ago supplying The Milk Marketing Board of England and Wales I observed and heard from dairy workers how inefficient and wasteful the organisation had become. Above all I listened to farmers who had been to the gilded palace that was the MMB’s headquarters at Thames Ditton and how decadent that edifice had become. The desperate but visionary men who had created the Board fifty years previously had inevitably been replaced by apparatchiks more interested in salaries and honours. Even so every country around the world which still had a fragmented dairy industry was envious of the MMB and the structured, centralised system which it had originally embodied. There were, alas, too few of us who argued that it had to be overhauled, and through the apathy of the members and arrogance of the senior staff, aided somewhat by the EEC and Thatcher, it was dismantled. The industry has been fragmented ever since.

And so it is with bovineTB. There are no visionaries in the fight against the disease and policies are completely disjointed. The recent target from the agricultural ministry of twenty-five years to eradicate bTB in “much” of England is so vague as to be laughable. It is obvious that in certain regions badger populations are excessive. It is equally obvious that the solution lies in intelligent husbandry and in correctly feeding and watering cattle. Beyond that there should be no compensation paid for imported cattle that are condemned, nor for cattle with an excessive number of passport movements. Those farmers who flout movement restrictions should not be eligible for any payments whatsoever. Good farmers and taxpayers are inevitably paying for the misdemeanours of bad farmers. The industry has to reassess how livestock are fed without at the same time feeding wildlife, whether it is mammals such as badgers or birds such as starlings. And so crops like maize should be discouraged by gradually reducing compensation paid for condemned cattle on farms growing this crop. Similarly, farms which have persistent bTB breakdowns should have enforceable advice followed by reducing compensation over several years. These farmers not only affect themselves but all the other farmers in the vicinity.

The official line from successive agricultural ministries has always been that bTB cannot migrate into the human population. Unofficially, the thought that it could has always horrified them. Now, partly as an excuse for a badger cull, there are mutterings that indeed it could. If it did it would devastate cattle farming in Britain, not just the dairy industry. The taxpayer should not have to fund a problem which is predominantly self-inflicted.

31-10-2013 12:42 PM | Posted by: Concerned
Mr Gibbons, the governments chief vet has also gone against scientific evidence and facts. Check out his credentials to see where his allegiance lies.
Mr Patterson battles on against overwhelming opposition, desperate not to lose face and position.
What is happening in this "democratic" government? Virtual blanket ban on any reportage regarding the cull, by controlled media groups. Scientific evidence ignored. Eminent wildlife experts disregarded. Overwhelming public opinion ignored. Our voices silenced. Gassing is next on the agenda.
Is this England? The only democratic part in this country is our vote, after that forget it.

31-10-2013 17:20 PM | Posted by: Concerned
Hi again, it was this site where I posted my comment. Please could you let me know if it was not appropriate. I have offered my email address. I'm not sure whether I have followed the process correctly or not.
Many thanks

01-11-2013 13:51 PM | Posted by: Concerned
"The views of a farmer"
I strongly agree with the comments made about Adam Henson the tv presenter. Every time there is a positive reaction to tb in one of his cattle he's off down to the West Country to buy some more.
I'm surprised its even televised in view of the concern over livestock movements.

To post comment without approval login or register

Display name

Please enter your name

Email (optional)

Please enter your comment

Post Comment

Your comment submitted successfully.Please wait for admin approval.

Some error on your process.Please try one more time.


Start Date: 22 June 2015
Skilled arable operator. Permanent job in Suffolk

We are looking for a skilled arable operator with PA1 and PA2 certificates who also has experience of spraying operations.&nb...

Start Date: 2 July 2015
Job for Herdsperson - Required for 210 Cow Dairy Farm >>Cheshire<<

24/24 Herringbone Parlour, Auto ID, Back Flush, Segregation Gate

All year round calving

Genus RMS

Duties to ...

Start Date: 1 July 2015
Job for a milker/general farm worker on a progressive dairy farm in Cambridgeshire

We are currently looking for an enthusiastic individual to work along side a team of five. Currently milking 600 cows x3 time...

Start Date: 18 June 2015
Job for General Farm Worker>>Pitlochry

Working at Balachallan Home Farm, Near Tulliemet, the successful applicant will be proficient in all aspects of suckler cow h...

Start Date: 26 June 2015
Harvest Work Job for 3 people >>>Oxford<<<

3 people required for harvest on 2000 acre farm with red deer herd. One to run grain store (training will be given) and ...

Top stories you may have missed
5 June 2015 | Cattle

A strong pound and increased red meat imports coupled with a plentiful dome...

5 June 2015 | Arable

Depression is affecting Wales' farming industry and there is a need to use ...

5 June 2015 | Arable

With just one week to go before the final judging and announcement of the w...

5 June 2015 | Finance

A rural law expert has highlighted the importance of good succession planni...

5 June 2015 | Farmshops

A south Yorkshire dairy farming family is pulling out all the stops to prom...

4 June 2015 | Finance

Predicting what is going to happen to wheat prices is a challenge, but in s...

4 June 2015 | Agri Safety

A Lancashire based livestock theft prevention scheme is aiming to go nation...

4 June 2015 | News

A female farmer has been recognised by the farming and conservation industr...

4 June 2015 | Finance

The new Conservative government appears to be preparing to implement cuts f...

4 June 2015 | Arable

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will have mobile support units at the follo...