There was a certain tension in the air on Friday as we had our regular TB testing on the farm, as a neighbour had a reactor which turned out to have TB just a few weeks ago.
The TB tests themselves are quite a palava. Many cattle have to be handled more often and the test is not pleasant for them - they remember the issues, so are not always too keen to go through the handling yard into the crush. In fact there have been several cases locally where farmers have been injured and even killed by stressed cattle that simply have to be handled more often because of the testing.
Anyway, on Friday we got our first TB reactor in more than 10 years. (This could still mean that we dont have TB - dont know that yet).
It‚Äôs bad and sad to have a reactor, but Farmer Phil was not best pleased when he found out that Number 17 was the only reactor, - and that this was the cow that had been put out in the field by the house to enjoy her last summer of grass, - when a more commercial outlook would have meant she was down the road last April‚Ä¶. Lately she has been stuck here because of the restrictions themselves for Foot and Mouth and Blue tongue (which I keep calling Blue TOOTH! - cows with phones!?!)
One reactor is not the end of the world, - but now it means that our calves cannot be moved to go to fatten, and that means no income. The main problem is the uncertainty, there's the extra testings which take 2 days every couple of months, and the worry that either the Bull ends up with it, or in the worst case scenario that if more that 30% of the animals get it then they will all be wiped out. There is compensation and insurance for the individual case, but the issues are the ongoing costs of being unable to move animals as well as the worry of having to cull perfectly healthy cattle as well as the breeding stock.
For humans there's no real risks from TB (listen to the Wiggly Podcast for more details here). However Bovine TB is really bad for cattle and the testing is really necessary to keep the disease at bay. But, what about the badgers? The explosion in badger population around our parts are there for all to see, (along with the resulting decline in hedgehog population, and other knock on effects).
Badgers have been a wonderful site for hundreds of years and the sets are marked on our farm maps 200 years ago. We think they are wonderful creatures, and of course it is not their fault that TB is in existance.
Does that mean Farmer Phil wants a ‚ÄúBadger Cull‚Äù?
Define Badger Cull.
If you mean does Farmer Phil want the badger population wiped out he says: NO NO NO. If you mean by Badger Cull that the sets that have TB are culled then Yes of course. Badgers have no natural predators so in some areas I'm sure they will need to be managed long term, but looking at the immediate issue just as when a cow has TB it will die itself anyway, much better to cull it before it spreads the disease - this is the same with Badger Sets ‚Äì for the sake of the badgers themselves, - and for the sake of the cattle.
On Farming Today there was someone who said that they would boycott British Food if there is a badger cull. To me this is an absolutely terrible thing to say. Apart from anything else most farmers I know certainly dont want the badger population obliterated - but the idea of actually boycotting local food on the back of one single without thinking about the balance of the countryside renders me speechless. (and that is something!)
If that person was wearing the farmer‚Äôs wellies seeing his stock wiped out ‚Äì the badger population poorly, (and out of control), me thinks he would sing a new tune.
Eradication of TB is essential for the badgers and the cattle, we dont want the eradication of badgers or cattle.
and the definition of farming is here.