Disappointingly there is still no long term decision on the future of glyphosate, which like many European Union decisions, is par for the course. Administrators sitting in their plush offices will have little comprehension of what a vital tool this chemical is to farmers, growers, foresters and nurserymen since it became available in the late sixties, saving the livelihoods of so many on the country’s couch infested farms.
On the South Downs, like many other light land areas, this grass, and its fellow weed grasses, had reached epidemic proportions. I personally spent many hot summer days in the sixties pulling either a chisel plough, S-tine cultivator, or an old “acrobat” rake across dusty fallow, gathering couch rhizomes into lines for burning in situ, or pushing it into lumps for burning. It was a slow and laborious task; I’m not sure it made a huge difference but it made us feel we were doing something about the weed.
Then, shortly after we had given up on ever freeing the farm of the menace, I installed a dairy unit up on the hills and, the same year, with much fanfare, Monsanto announced the release of what was to be our salvation – Roundup. It was surely one of the most important agrochemical discoveries ever, changing the way farmers were able to grow crops, keep them clean and, above all produce yields capable of returning a profit.
And yet now, almost 50 years on, there are strong pressures to ban it, on the grounds there may be a cancer risk. So too is there with drinking, smoking and over eating! It does seem the environmental campaigners in the west have a clear agenda to remove as many chemicals from our toolboxes as they can on similar spurious grounds, with no more than well placed innuendos in which they get support from the equally culpable law makers in Brussels. Neonicotinoids and glyphosate, among others – lose them and we are almost back to stone age farming. Never mind farmers producing food. Many of the public believe they can simply drop down to the supermarket and it will all be on the shelves for them. Or will it?
As reported last month, we arranged a private DNA test to prove a cull cow – reported by an abattoir to have TB lesions – was, in fact our animal. Unfortunately it was. As a result we were subjected to a severe interpretation test, which has just been completed. This combines blood /skin testing, with any animal showing slightest sign of reaction being killed. No inconclusives, just reactors.
However the DNA result did confirm the strain of TB the animal had was the same as a 2015 case some three miles north, which started all the recent trouble. Since we have had absolutely no movement of animals between us it is clear the disease is now in the local wildlife – either deer or badgers – so the longer term prospects are not looking good for anyone.
This latest test on our rearing farm, eight miles from the main herd, threw up one animal as inconclusive which must, under the rules, be killed. Given the rapid spread of TB in East Sussex, I was prepared for losing a cow or two up on the Downs but this was the first TB reactor on our coastal farm since the second world war. Badgers appeared here two years ago, so what conclusions should we draw?
The heifer herself had a reading in the same range as all the others, except reversed, and we are a little suspicious the two skin jabs went in unrecorded the wrong way round. A simple mistake perhaps under pressure on a hot day, yet officialdom now dictates she must be killed.
Now on 26 July we have the blood results. The heifer herself returned a clear blood test so it seems a bit hard in the circumstances she has to be killed on what we suspect could be a human error.
On the herd blood test three cows failed, meaning the local three kilometre zone is shut down for months before everyone is retested.Yet Deathra seem quite unable to see the wood for the trees, quite unable to do the obvious or think laterally. One would think there would be a clear policy to finally identify the real culprits but it all seems so amateurish. They spend huge sums on treating the effect while ignoring the cause. Even their operatives openly criticise national TB policy but are paid to carry it out. Just to get on and gather / sample all roadkill deer, and badgers, nationwide would seem a good starting point. All in the farming industry – indeed most sensible people in the country – know what needs doing, but it seems politicians don’t.
It would be better still to test a badger from all known local setts, and where positive, take out the whole sett. I am really disappointed – with little prospect now of DEFRA secretary of state Owen Paterson being drafted in invigorate TB eradication – that nobody in the present government appears to have the courage to confront the animal rights lobby, so clearly set on destroying our green and pleasant land.
Clearly only an intensive move to identify infected badgers will ever get on top of this scourge. Our fathers’ generation managed it, and it didn’t wipe badgers off the face of the earth, just kept them and cattle healthy. All we want for the countryside is that all our animals, herds and the wildlife – which are such an intrinsic part of our whole British environment – are kept healthy. If it has to be achieved by taking out infected animals, badgers, deer and smaller vermin, so be it. It is simply being cruel to allow this reservoir of disease to fester.