22 October 1999

Outbreak resulted in £100,000 loss

DIRECT and consequential losses of a TB breakdown cost one Wilts milk producer more than £100,000 after compensation payments.

Jerry Rider totals the cost of losing 75 cows from his 400-cow herd at Horton, Devizes and being under restriction orders for six months, at £238,000. This includes £80,000 loss in cow value, £144,000 in milk sales and £14,000 through poorer cow fertility and testing costs.

"MAFF compensation paid £53,000 and the farms insurance a further £45,000. But we still have to get to grips with more than £100,000 loss."

Mr Rider also had problems bringing clean cattle from his Cheshire youngstock farm onto the unit and transferring young calves back to Cheshire. Restocking while under restriction meant a milking bail was bought to allow purchased cows to be kept on different land to the main herd.

"But there are also hidden costs. There is stress on the farming family and staff because you cant see the end of the road, and stress on the animals during testing.

"We also risked bringing in disease with purchased animals."

The initial breakdown was in 1997, when 42 reactors were identified. Further tests at 60 day intervals found 18, 11 and then four reactors, respectively.

Mr Rider believes a sick badger may have inadvertently caused the infection. "In the winter of 1996 we found a sick badger around the buildings, but the RSPCA couldnt catch it." The 270ha (660 acre) farm also has many badger setts.

"It couldnt all have been cow-to-cow transmission because 100 heifers came from our farm in Cheshire, were kept in a separate yard, and three had TB at the first test.

"Its impossible to separate cows from badgers. But we understand that if we had a healthy group of badgers we wouldnt get TB," said Mr Rider.

The farm is still on a six-monthly TB testing programme. The next test is this week.