1 March 1996

Knock-on costs are high if herd tests TB positive

West Country producers and farming unions are calling for tougher measures to control TB. Rebecca Austin reports

WHEN G Warren & Sons dairy herd was shut down for six months due to TB reactors, it cost the business £16,000.

The 260-head herd outside Gloucester had its routine annual test on July 25. Four reactors and six doubtfuls were taken for slaughter. Two weeks later a heifer which had summered away from the farm suffered a similar fate.

The first retest in mid-October revealed two more reactors. The herd was cleared in December. With few badger setts sited on the 210ha (520-acre) farm, the seat of infection was presumed to be a neighbouring badger evicted from a family sett, says Robert Warren.

Fortunately Mr Warren and his brother Andrew were able to rearrange the buildings to house 120 calves they were unable to sell over the six months.

His brother, who is responsible for 49ha (120 acres) of arable land, the machinery and youngstock, looked after the calves for four months. Rearing costs averaged about £80 a head to include feed, straw and labour. Calf mortality increased to 2%. When the calves were sold at four-months they were worth only £20 over those which marketed at two-weeks old.

The Warrens were also unable to buy in-heifer replacements – hence a loss in milk income. And retest absorbed 45 man hours. Compensation rates for reactors are calculated at a MAFF valuation figure or 75% of current market value – whichever is the lowest.

There was no MAFF surveying presence on the farm until November – even though a neighbouring farm had been under restriction for the past two years. "I believe MAFF should trap at least neighbouring properties. The current policy is not working. And to release infected lactating sows back into the environment is ludicrous," says Mr Warren.

He is also unhappy with the level of compensation for reactors. And he supports the NFUs call for reactor compensation to be raised to 125%. "The loss in the value of the animal is not the major loss, it is the consequential loss which is the real hit," he says.


Financial implication of TB outbreak (£)

Undercompensation for six reactors:3250

Rearing 120 calves for 12 weeks:9800

Extra straw:200

Mortality (2%):440

Cost of retests:560

Extra labour over six months:1680

Total:15930

TB has cost Glos producer Robert Warren £16,000 over months.