The NFU has pressed its case for a badger cull in areas affected by bovine tuberculosis by highlighting the case of a Devon farmer who lost his herd to TB.

Following a rapid increase of confirmed cases after June 2005 the State Veterinary Service decided to slaughter the remaining 77 cows in David Christopher’s dairy herd in West Devon.

After reviewing his circumstances the SVS wrote to Mr Christopher explaining that none of his cows had demonstrated any long-term signs of TB infection and could therefore not be considered the primary source of infection.

The SVS concluded that “it must be assumed that there is on-going exposure to M. bovis from a non-bovine source”.

At this time he recalls a significant increase in activity in a badger sett near a woodland boundary on his farm and is confident they are the cause of the disease spread.

Asked whether he intended to re-stock Mr Christopher said: “It would seem futile given the current TB situation.”

He added that he had great sympathy with other affected farmers who are awaiting the outcome of DEFRA’s consultation on a proposed badger cull.

However, he said that having lost his herd he wished he had taken action himself.

“Faced with this situation again I would consider taking matters into my own hands and in retrospect, having lost my livelihood, I wish I had,” said Mr Christopher.

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said he feared more cattle farmers in the west would follow Mr Christopher if DEFRA failed to tackle the disease reservoir in badgers.

“Farmers spend their lives breeding cattle and developing their herds, and I know from personal experience the stress that results from a TB breakdown and the movement restrictions that follow.

“I fear that if this disease isn’t tackled cattle farming from across many parts of the west would disappear altogether.”

Although the consultation is now closed the NFU is keen to maintain pressure on the ministers at DEFRA and is urging farmers to continue writing letters expressing their frustration and concern.

andrew.watts@rbi.co.uk