There is little good news coming from TB testing in recent times. Whoever you are and wherever you farm, if you keep cattle you are almost certain to get caught up in the complex, ineffective and ever changing rules.

As reported last month we went through our second 60 day test with a clear result, giving us some reason to believe, since the reactors from the previous test in March had proved negative, (neither animal showing visible lesions and then giving clear culture results, plus three inconclusives returning clear) that it would be accepted as a clear test, making this latest our second clear test. But think again…

Nothing appears straightforward here, and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) vets decided they wanted us to go through the hoop of yet another 60 day test this month. So we are left with a barn full of growing Angus cross calves, taking labour and precious food stocks, with another 80 or so cows due to drop their calves over the coming three months.

I really think it’s little more than a big game for the APHA staff. Indeed, if they were making any visible headway with getting on top of the spread of TB it might be a game worth playing for farmers as well. But at the present rate of progress it’s little short of a total disaster.

Until they bring themselves to stop the movement of suspect beef stores from dirty TB areas, the situation will do nothing but get worse by the week for us dairy farmers who are helpless to do anything about protecting our herds,

It’s all very well government ministers and clever experts telling us that farmers have to take care of their herds’ biosecurity. But when their own policies continue to allow the almost unrestricted movement of potentially infectious cattle into close proximity to our own (usually closed) herds, we have absolutely no chance of staying clear of TB for any length of time.

Even if, as our vets are telling us, the present outbreaks are not currently being transmitted by contact with wildlife, there are so many other transmitters it won’t be long before every herd in the South East will be shut down, either by positive results or through radial testing with local three kilometre breakdowns. So the job prospects for DEFRA vets will be guaranteed for life. And farmers and their hard working staff will be tied to regular 60 day testing and yet more regular herd breakdowns. But this charade is wearing thin.

We experienced yet more frustration in June concerning the ever increasing list of useful chemicals being withdrawn from our toolkits. A sudden loss of maize plants in what two days before was a healthy take pointed to a wireworm attack. Not that there is no known treatment but, as with so many effective chemicals in recent years, the one to do the job was now withdrawn from the approved lists. For years we had effective weapons for leather Jackets (crane fly), frit fly and wireworm. First withdrawn many years ago – and probably wisely – was Gammacol. But, with the more recent withdrawal of Dursban, we have nothing to call on. In years past we have suffered serious attacks of leatherjackets and, had it not been for Dursban, would have suffered very significant losses to our permanent grassland. The same applies to wireworm.

Readers probably think all I do is complain! But running a dairy based farming business, when officialdom is doing its best to put problems in our way is not easy. I grew up in the days when The “Min of Ag” was supportive and had a policy of encouraging home food production, and UK farmers. We don’t even have a named minister of agriculture these days to support our interests, only environment ministers who often seem determined to put petty obstructions in our way. They encourage weed infested headlands, insist on us growing crops we don’t want to satisfy the absurd European Union three crop rule and, of course, despite what they may say, are doing their best to encourage TB to continue unchecked across the country.

Nevertheless, the work has to be done and always is, despite these hurdles. If Brexit ever takes off, it will be interesting to see the level of support British agriculture gets when we are free of the unelected bullies from Brussels. Every day makes that dream less likely.

No apologies but I close on our main issue: TB. South East Farmer has at least got people talking, if not agreeing. I recently received a call from William White, the NFU’s regional director, explaining why the union felt unable to offer any comfort to Home Counties dairy farmers by taking some steps to restrict the infectious inflow of beef stores from the high risk areas, movements which are contributing to such a disastrous spread of the disease among our (until recently) historically predominately TB free dairy herds.

An inconclusive, rather unsatisfactory, but amicable conversation, settled nothing, except that the NFU could set up a small meeting of locally interested parties to see if there was any common ground to be found. I was not optimistic. Quite clear to us dairymen is the fact that if these questionable store cattle continue to be allowed into previously clear areas we will never be free of TB. Alternatively – and urgently – find an effective test for infectious cattle that really works. Why should they be allowed in to infect our animals?

Yes, by all means bring store cattle in for finishing. But they simply have to be guaranteed clear of TB. If there is any doubt, keep them out. Presently there is doubt and so we have this growing problem.