Dairy beef bull calves on straw© Tim Scrivener

A tenant farmer from East Sussex has spelled out the significant financial costs associated with a TB outbreak as a way of raising awareness of the pressure suffered by farmers when a disease outbreak occurs.

Mark Peters from Plashett Park Farm, Ringmer, East Sussex, estimates a TB breakdown, first confirmed on his farm in November 2016, has cost him more than £100,000.

His biggest cost was nearly £70,000 spent on bought-in barley and other feed stuffs – incurred because the movement restrictions imposed on the farm prevented him from selling his stock as normal.

See also: Livestock farmer forced to destock herd to get farm rid of TB

He also faced increased labour costs because of the need to manage the extra stock, including the time taken to arrange and carry out the necessary TB tests.

Rearing calves

Mr Peters’ business is predominantly based on rearing bull calves from dairy herds which are collected at one to three-weeks-old and sold to a specialist finisher once they reach about 200kg.

He is also building a breeding cattle herd based on British Blue-cross calves purchased from TB-free dairy herds.

Cashflow implications

Speaking to Farmers Weekly, Mr Peters said at one stage, rather than the 600 head he had been expecting to feed, movement restrictions meant he was left with 1,000 animals to look after.

As a business based on rearing animals on a constant basis, being locked down with TB also meant “cashflow had been turned off overnight”.

“We made it through with the help and support of our staff and understanding suppliers who were good enough to offer some helpful payment terms,” he said.

Until November 2016, Mr Peters had never had a TB reactor or inconclusive case on his holding. His herd tested clear again in June 2017.

Consequential losses

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) said Mr Peters’ case showed while farmers received some compensation towards the value of animals slaughtered, this represented a small proportion of the total losses suffered by a farmer.

TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “The TFA has argued consistently that the consequential losses to the farm business far outweigh the compensation provided by government for the value of the animals slaughtered.

“This case study shows how just one animal contracting bovine TB in a herd can have devastating financial consequences for the farm business.”

“The TFA believes that more action needs to be taken to control this disease given both the financial and emotional cost suffered by farmers whose herds are subjected to this terrible disease.”

Estimated total cost of TB breakdown

First TB test (16 full-time days at £100/day)

£1,600

Second TB test (16 full-time days at £100/day)

 £1,600

Third TB test (20 full-time days at £100/day)

£2,000

Additional labour to manage additional stock – 22 weeks

£8,000

Additional vaccine and antibiotics for calves

£11,200

Bought in barley (270t at £120/t)

£32,400

Other feed/pellets bought in

£38,000

Bought in straw

£7,000

Total

£101,800

Source: Mark Peters, Pashett Park Farm