1 March 2002

Cattle TBtest restart to show soaring rises?

By FW reporters

FEARS that the restart of routine cattle TB testing, following suspension during foot-and-mouth, will reveal a massive nationwide increase in the incidence have risen following positive tests in Wales and the south-west.

Bob Stevenson, a former president of the British Vet Association who practices in Monmouthshire, reported his concerns at an NFU-Cymru organised visit to Trostre Court, Usk, which has lost 76 pedigree Holsteins to TB.

"Within the last week, I tested a herd which had been clear for 50 years and found 11 reactors and 20 cattle with inconclusive results. I fear that TB has been spreading insidiously over the last year, creating a timebomb that will explode as more farms are tested."

He had no doubt that badgers were spreading the disease. When animals killed on roads were tested over 90% had TB. Post mortems on dead badgers found on clients farms usually revealed emaciation and characteristic pulmonary lesions.

"I cannot understand why we kill cattle, but do so little about controlling the other part of the disease cycle. Unless action is taken, it could become uneconomic to keep cattle in some areas." Mr Stevenson insisted that Britains 300,000 badgers were not an endangered species and culling diseased animals saved them from a slow and painful death.

David Morgan, who recently invested £300,000 in new milking facilities at Trostre Court, said the 188ha (465 acre) farm had become overrun by badgers during the last decade. "They have complete protection and no natural predators. New setts appear regularly and a post mortem on a dead badger found recently showed it was riddled with TB. I want healthy badgers living in harmony with healthy cattle."

TB had been found on most of his neighbours farms and it was creeping outwards. Producers were ready to live with cattle testing and the costs of restrictions imposed when TB was found. But were angry that nothing was done to deal with disease carriers.

Visitors were told that reactors were found on 46 Monmouthshire farms, including 13 new units, between January 2001 and February 2002. With testing suspended for much of the period most of the cases were recorded in recent weeks. NFU Monmouthshires Andy Hilditch said TB had been confirmed on four new farms in the area in the last week.

Recent tests in the south west are also revealing many infected herds, says south west producer and National Beef Association TB spokesperson Barry Jones. "A horrendous number of cases are being found now testing has resumed. In some areas of the south west nearly all farms are going down with TB.

"Testing is progressing rapidly to catch up, but it will be delayed by having to retest herds with reactors," he told farmers weekly.

The NFU estimated that farms under restriction faced a £3000/month increase in costs. More than 1500 UK farms awaiting tests had been placed under restriction because of their past history, or because they were contiguous with infected premises.

Charlie Kirby, who produces store cattle at Hill Farm, Usk, said he was one of many who could not market any animals until he had a clear test.

Other producers expressed concern that the annual cost of testing, compensation and administration would reach a staggering amount before the Krebs trials on badgers were completed in 2005.

But the chairman of the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on cattle TB John Bourne, told a London press briefing that the Krebs trials have not been wrecked by F&M restrictions preventing badger culling. "Badger activity is no greater than it was after the proactive culling," he said.

TB TESTING

Stopped due to F&M.

Catch up has begun.

Many cases being identified.

&#8226 Stopped due to F&M.

&#8226 Catch up has begun.

&#8226 Many cases being identified.