Unfortunately, rules must be adhered to

Writers Posted 16/09/21
We are fortunate to be on a four-yearly TB testing rota.

It seems to have been one of those years when the weathermen’s predictions seem to be so inaccurate that it’s almost laughable. It seems a long time since we saw the bright yellow thing in the sky that once upon a time was called sunshine, although by the time you read this, I could have been proved very wrong.

This week saw the unfortunate demise of “Geronimo”, the Alpaca at the centre of a legal row due to a failed TB test. Protests are still occurring, and the ongoing legal dispute has cost the taxpayer in excess of £100,000.

Geronimo was tested twice for bovine TB and on both occasions had been a reactor. DEFRA had ordered him to be put to sleep. I haven’t heard a mention of the cattle that are lost in TB testing throughout the year or the farmers that go through this on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, rules must be adhered to until a suitable vaccine is made available. It doesn’t mean that farmers are any less distraught than Helen Macdonald (Geronimo’s owner); it just indicates that farmers have come to accept the threat of a TB reactor at every test.

Bovine TB is an infectious disease of cattle, deer, goats, llamas and alpacas as well as many other mammals. In cattle, TB is primarily a chronic respiratory disease, but clinical signs are rare. It can be naturally transmitted from animals to humans under certain conditions, but pasteurisation in milk has drastically reduced this.

The UK has a comprehensive TB eradication plan in place, but it is causing significant problems in developing countries. The compensation money just isn’t enough. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board is helping dairy farmers breed cows with an improved resistance to TB. Time will tell if this is to be successful.

We are fortunate to be on a four-yearly TB testing rota but others in the South East are not as fortunate and have either six-monthly or annual TB testing. At the beginning of July, we underwent four days of TB testing. Day one: dry cows and all heifers; day two: all milking cows; day three: a rest day, or as some call it: “catch up on all the work that wasn’t achieved Mon/Tues”; Thursday and Friday we were reading all the results. Fortunately, we passed for another four years. A huge sigh of relief from us all, including our vet.

We had an email yesterday from our milk buyer stating that they may not be able to collect our milk due to a large protest from the “animal rebellion” outside the Aylesbury dairy. This essentially closed our milk buyer as they could not move lorries on or off the site. How can a bunch of smallminded people have this much impact on a business? The police were very helpful in assisting the protestors to leave, but how can so few cause so much damage without suffering any consequences? The protest lasted from 5am till 8pm but, in that time, the financial damage had already occurred.

The purpose of the protest was allegedly to convince our milk buyer to switch to plant-based production by 2025. I’m not convinced that a dairy company (owned by 16,000 dairy farmers) will embrace the thought of switching to plant-based products. We shall stick to the job we know; perhaps the protestors should stick to a job they know! We are now back to the dreaded school run and life will shortly return to “routine, routine and more routine”. The school run is always entertaining with a four-year-old who allegedly takes delivery of his New Holland 1200HP tractor tonight and he’ll have to test it in the morning so unfortunately won’t be able to go to school, or the fact that we’ve got no-one to AI the cows so he will have to stay home and help.

I’m beginning to wish I was four years old again or just had the vivid imagination to come up with the stories. The evenings have started to draw in and the dew on the ground seems to take forever to disappear. The highest temperature reached in the South East during August was 21 degrees - maybe we shall have an Indian summer in September!

Until next time, stay safe.


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