Will’s World: Is help coming for TB-stricken? It’s inconclusive

Inconclusive. adjective. Not leading to a firm conclusion or result; not ending doubt or dispute.

I think a lot about words these days. Their various meanings, how they fit into sentences, whether or not a paragraph sounds good when read aloud. That’s what writing a weekly column does to you, I suppose.

But there’s been only a single solitary word on my mind over the past few weeks – inconclusive.

For background, this area of north-east Wales is riddled with bovine TB and has been for years.

Many friends and neighbours have been dealing with the financial and mental health consequences of having it in their dairy herds for such a long time that they’ve become resigned to it.

They know there’s no one willing to help them, and it’s just something they have to live with.

See also: ‘No help is coming’, says farmer who lost 21 cows to bovine TB

If they’re among the fortunate ones who haven’t got it in their herds at the current time, they’re aware that sooner rather than later they’ll be shut down again.

It’s no way to run a business, or indeed a life – inconclusive.

In limbo

Now, once again, it’s our turn. During our recent whole-herd test a nice little Limousin heifer failed.

The lump on her skin was just a millimetre or two too big, but it was apparently enough, and now we’re left in limbo for a while.

I must stress that it’s not as bad for us in many ways, as we don’t breed any of our own cattle anymore.

So the emotional toll of seeing animals you have that kind of lifelong connection with being taken away, or shot on farm, isn’t something we have to handle, unlike so many others.

Nevertheless, it’s still a huge disruption to our system, and will potentially have a negative medium-term impact on cashflow and profitability if we can’t buy in calves for a while – inconclusive.

I say “if”, because currently we don’t know what’s happening.

Our vet assured us that it would mean another skin test for the heifer in 60 days’ time, as standard in this situation, and then we’d have to go from there, depending on the result.

But when we spoke to someone at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (after being put on hold for 30 minutes), they informed us that she’d need to have a blood test next week instead.

Waiting game

Considering that the last time we had TB-related blood tests taken they managed to lose some of them in the lab, resulting in us being shut down for a few months longer than was necessary, this didn’t bode well.

However, we warily made the arrangements for them to test her in seven days’ time – inconclusive.

It was a nuisance doing it on the morning we arranged because, like everyone else, we’ve been under pressure catching up with harvest now the weather’s come good.

But we got everything ready and the stressed heifer, and equally stressed farmers, waited impatiently for the ministry vet to arrive.

We waited. We waited some more. We waited longer. And then we gave up – they didn’t turn up.

We called them again, and they helpfully said: “Oh yes, we can see you arranged a test. I’m not sure what’s happened here, but we’ll be back in touch again soon.”

Several days later and we still haven’t heard from them – inconclusive.

We’re constantly assured by policymakers that everything’s on track with TB, and that the eradication programme will work.

With this level of uncaring incompetence happening behind the scenes, though, can we believe them? Inconclusive.