Bovine Tb our history
Posted: 2nd Jul 2020
For fifteen years we have faced the ongoing threat of Bovine TB in our herd- well, actually much longer, but our first 'breakdown' was in 2005!
Before then, since taking over the tenancy of the farm as third generation of a farming family, we had seen BSE and Foot and Mouth outbreaks wreck businesses and families.
We had survived those, admittedly undergoing severe financial penalties, but had already decided that we would take as much care as we could practically manage to prevent any more threats.
One thing was to become a 'closed' farm. This means that we didn't buy in, we had to breed our own cattle and sheep replacements- so if a cow died or a ewe died, we kept our numbers up by keeping one of our own young animals.
We also had joined the current conservation scheme- countryside stewardship, and as we reinvigorated by replanting and laying our hedges, we made sure they were all double -fenced, preventing nose to nose contact with any neighbouring cattle.
We had our first breakdown in 2005- a mature cow, part of a group grazing in a pasture field that had previously been a corn field but had a sett at the side. We have not grazed cattle in that field to this present day!
We tried to explain to the public that this disease was spreading, but no one apart from farmers could see the harm it was doing.
Our next occured in 2013. A prime cow just about to give birth(imminently, in fact). We were allowed to keep her for a week for her to calve, which she duly did, then they came and took her! Our ethos has always been to leave the calves with their mothers until they mature at about 8 months of age).
You can see this in a video at www.Tbfreeengland.co.uk entitled 'the calf'.
We managed to stay clear until the autumn of 2018 when we shockingly lost 5 cattle, all between the ages of 6 and 11yrs, all having been regularly tested and never having gone off our farm. In the following January we lost another one and so were unable to sell to other farmers for most of that year, as we have to re test every 60 days from when the failed animal leaves the premises.
Each time there is a breakdown all our cattle movements are investigated, our holding is inspected for potential contact with others (there cant be and isn't any) and our bio security checked. We had even made use of the TBAdvisory service, which, after a visit, gives objective advice on how to avoid interaction with badgers, making practical changes where we could. We've also undergone skin and blood tests on our remaining cattle.
Again, in autumn 2019, we lost another and then three more in January 2020. Harrowingly, one of these was a 14 month old heifer, in her prime for breeding. It had fallen into a pattern- fail in autumn after a spring and summer grazing outside, then clear after overwintering inside, ready for the whole cycle to start again!
Sadly we decided we could not continue as we were. The heartbreak of losing an animal that has been born and bred on the farm over generations, even helping it be born. Giving it a good life at the expense of your own on occasion- I can name many occasions when one of us would miss a 'do' because something was looking like calving. So we will let the herd dwindle through Btb, old age or illness and will not keep up our cattle numbers anymore.
Yes, there has been a huge financial impact on our business through this disease, which I will investigate in another blog, but the emotional impact has been incredible, made worse by the sheer indifference to the welfare of our cattle by people whom it doesn't affect!
And for no one else, the 'animal lovers', wildlife trusts and animal rights activists, to care about them, just the vector that transmits the disease- the badger, is equally heart breaking! a
Posted by: Angela
Categories: Bovine TB