Recently I ventured onto a comments page of the Guardian newspaper web site. Not being a subscriber to the often poisonous garbage emanating from open discussion sites, it was quite depressing, although somehow fascinating, to read through the comments from so many obviously bitter and seemingly rather ignorant people.

They must spend their whole lives taking it personally that other people, who work, should actually consider the need to make a profit from their efforts. They were writing about milk in this instance and their contributions got angrier the more rubbish they wrote. I don’t take The Guardian but it says something about the information in its pages that adult Britons can be so badly informed as to spout such puerile nonsense – and presumably believe it!

These folk appeared to assume everyone who farms cattle treats them to their own standards. Restrained, indoors and unnatural. I’m sure it would disappoint them if they deigned to visit some commercially run dairy farms with open minds, just to understand the care and compassion with which so many farmers treat their animals, despite losing money every day of the week. It is, believe me, quite hard to spend money you are not earning, feeding cattle whose milk is certain to lose you more money.

It pains me to report we have been revisited by the ever present nightmare of that morale wrecking disease bovine TB in West Sussex. More to the point, it refreshed our experience of Deathra’s animal health rules, cobbled together by politicians, and gold plated by office staff, satisfying few other than the animal rights groups.

It certainly seems they don’t even want to find the solution to the TB / cattle problem. If they did they would follow the tried and tested way of stopping it: controlling infected wildlife, mainly badgers. When we last had the disease some 12 years ago we were battling both TB and a state veterinary service staffed by officers who didn’t understand cattle or TB, since for almost 40 years it had barely featured in the south.

Under Blair’s touchy feely government, they went with the popular flow, just so long as they could be seen to be making life difficult for farmers! This they did and drove many out of cattle farming. Meanwhile TB exploded nationwide.

The ones who came through those times hung on, hoping lessons had been learned. Silly us. Now we have again been restricted it is already pretty obvious Deathra has learned very little. We all hope we don’t have animals with TB; but a reactor was recently found nearby on the South Downs, an animal bought last year from Wiltshire, being fattened in a local rearing unit. The type of TB came with it.

Despite this there have been restrictions placed on all cattle units within three kilometres which has ensnared some five or six good dairy units into a sequence of three tuberculin skin tests over the next 20 months or so with all the restriction, cost and strain this entails.

It is particularly hard that the affected animal, killed at an abattoir last November, was from an indoor beef unit, not recently in open contact with wildlife or other cattle, surrounded by a big waterway, so protecting the spread of disease locally. The unit’s remaining cattle subsequently passed a 60 day skin test last month.

However Deathra then decided to carry out blood testing on the herd, presumably because they know the skin test programme, as practiced nationwide, is suspect. At the same time, before even knowing the results of the blood tests, they wrote to local farmers putting them under pre movement testing restrictions and demanding we test our animals as described in the previous paragraph. Even if the blood tests are subsequently clear they apparently have no plans to cancel their decision. Why?

Yet just supposing the infection has spread locally. One assumed they would wish to test all our animals before any cattle could be moved away. But no. The conditions on the restriction notices state unambiguously: “Please note this pre movement testing …will come into effect four weeks from the date of this (unsigned) letter and remain in place until such time as your herd reverts to a 48 month testing interval.”

Seems odd? Giving newly restricted farms the freedom to move animals, beef types perhaps which you don’t want to get stuck with on farm, just in case of a reactor; it’s welcome but giving this loopholeseems risky . Its called biosecurity Im told – as practiced by the Animal and Plant health Agency. It’s about as cock eyed as inflicting this restriction on us in the first place!

Deathra got its variant name from its huge enthusiasm to kill healthy cows under John Major’s government, during the BSE crisis of the nineties. Now, although it’s unlikely to find TB cases locally, it is doing its best to create great anxiety among yet more dairy farmers. This will probably end up in closing further herds, and the destruction of even more of Englands green and pleasant landscapes. Bring back Owen Paterson.

It’s a relief to be getting some spring-like days now, to be able to start outside work. Chain harrowing has been started, much fresh mole damage exposed and is being tackled. And having had a drier winter, without the floods of the past two years, we have progressed with preparation of the spring barley ground. It was ploughed for drilling mid February but a couple of very wet days delayed plans, although we will be ready to go again once we get a few dry days. I hope that happens by the time this is printed.