Road scalpings were at first bought via cash deals with a long gone council ‘Del Boy’ type who was involved in road works locally, needing to get rid of the stuff quickly to speed resurfacing works. They were very good value! As ‘ripped up’ it contained significant amounts of tar and, when spread and rolled in warm weather, went down just like a metalled road.

Gradually things changed and those bitumen full scalpings, by now called planings, became dry tarless flakes, they did a second rate job in repairs without the binding power of the old tarred chippings. Asking where the old scalpings were we were told ‘They are not available anymore’. ‘Why not?’ ‘EU directive!’. Doubtless gold plated here in the UK, and this once valuable material, due to its bitumen element, was now off to ‘landfill’. Partly because of this we didn’t use them for some time until, last year, when we urgently needed something to repair a farm track cum public footpath and, as the weather was dry I decided to get a lorry load in and spread it immediately to make the track passable for the winter.

The lorry arrived and the driver, happy to drive over a couple of meadows to tip 20 ton on site (many drivers today would doubtless quote some new HSE law which stopped them going off road!) so 15 minutes later he was tipped and gone.

Using the Kramer, the load was spread in 20 minutes, the track transformed. Except, one thing. The material now, no longer chippings /flakes was more a powder and I was immediately concerned how long it will last. Very unlikely it will ‘bind’ damp, however hard it Is rolled, consequently if it doesn’t bind it will soon disappear. Time alone will tell.

Far better had the old tarry, bitumen impregnated chippings been allowed to play the part it was ideal for, rather than being dumped below ground and wasted. Surely it would be much better used above ground, than being tipped in a hole to leach its bitumous content into our waterways.

Our numbers of young calves are fast building now. The old dairy buildings on the home farm are bulging and there are more to come. There are a grand selection of excellent, but presently unsaleable calves, due to inconsistent and questionable TB restrictions. Yet, suddenly everything is changed! Having been told we needed two more clear ‘60 day tests’ suddenly the story changed and we now only have to present our last two inconclusives, have them go clear, and we are deemed a clean herd. The calves are not quite ‘eating us out of house and home’ but a clear test would certainly reform the situation. Our only option just now is to send them to an ‘Orange’ market to the West but, while prices there are strong for older cattle it doesn’t, from recent experience, constitute a viable commercial exercise for younger animals. Transport costs then ‘taking off any gilt that’s left on the gingerbread’. So I hope it doesn’t become necessary.

Still struggling with the lack of any progress in identifying the source of our ‘so called’ TB problem and, with the lack of any sign of the disease in any reactors or inconclusives, plus the cessation of subsequent Apha culture tests on cattle with negative post mortem results, there is no publicised manner available for farmers to find out what strain of the disease their animals are supposed to have, Indeed if they have it at all.

It must be a very rewarding job for ‘Apha/Deathra’, from the top down, to know their success in promoting the spread of TB countrywide is ensuring their jobs will, in all likelihood, still be available to them until their retirement. To be clear, I am certainly not including in this comment our hard working private veterinary practice staff, who do such a sterling job for farmers in spite of constant and inconsistent government dictats. But I am sure there are far more useful ways for State staff to be spending their lives than on this largely pointless, inaccurate, expensive and out-of-date, testing?

Now, with all this rumbling on, we have finally taken the painful decision to sell our old British Friesian herd and be free of the worry. A sad time after so long, as the original blood lines have been here with my family since the 1890s.

We are selling the best, keeping some older cows to double suckle through summer and then decide on the way ahead. One part of me says perhaps we should get on the fattener bandwagon, go west, buy strong stores, bring in TB and to hell with it. So what?
And then I think to myself. It wouldn’t be very neighbourly would it?

Here’s a thought to finish on… A couple of folk recently gave me the latest stories on how some herds handle TB, I think one is worth repeating.

It is the morning of the key second day of the TB test, Farmer and his staff get up early and run all the animals through the crush and, perhaps, identify a handful of necks with abnormal lumps. You then remove them to a quiet comfortable secluded pen.

The Tester arrives later, alone, and the checking starts. A member of farm staff is doing the paperwork and has the numbers of these suspects. He ticks off the checked animals on the Apha master list (and the suspects also get a tick). The Tester does not count numbers, yet at the end, everything has been ticked… job done… clean test? Couldn’t happen could it? Really not so sure.