Goodbye Primrose, hello TB

Many people keep in touch with rural matters by listening at 7pm each evening to The Archers on Radio 4.  Sadly for us, Tony’s latest dead cow and TB storyline has been rather close to the bone.  Farming, as with many professions, can only be successful when faced with an unbridled passion, an absolute humour and light heartedness and a skill for taking everything with a pinch of salt.  As our previous updates have hinted, the positives regularly outweigh the frequent negatives in trying to make the farm profitable.  Sadly, certain negatives really hit hard.

 For the first time in 6 years, we have had a positive TB reactor in our pedigree South Devon herd.  A 6 year old cow, Tenhouse Primrose, was found by our vet to be a TB carrier, and has to be slaughtered.  Although the rest of the herd appear free of the disease, they are of course all at risk now, and we are nervously awaiting a further test in 60 days.  Our loss is negligible compared to some herds, but the distress is just as great.

 Despite all efforts to control this tragic and expensive disease, our vets tell us that current steps are making no difference.  And surely the ill-managed and probably inconclusive badger cull in Somerset will lead us no further forward.  Where is a cattle vaccine?  DEFRA have worked on research for a vaccine since 1998 and there is still no indication that it is imminent.  As everyone acknowledges, a complete badger cull is unlikely, and only a half solution.  In the meantime, with no prospect of a vaccine, the country will continue to pay approximately £87 million (the 2009-2010 figure if you google it) to slaughter 32-38,000 cattle a year (according to the dairyco.org.uk website).  Yet DEFRA are investing only £9.3 million over the next 4 years to research the vaccine. 

 It’s a subject we get asked our opinion on a lot; as a halfway man between agriculture and ecology, everyone is keen to know our stance.  Badgers or the cattle industry?  Our own loss at the hands of TB makes it even trickier to stay objective.  Fingers crossed that in 60 days we don’t lose any more of our beautiful beasties. 

Our South Devon girls

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