Farmer Focus Livestock: Murray Garrett on TB control

I must start this month’s piece with a humble apology to all the other regional NFU chairmen of Devon. At our induction meeting in January I was complemented on the positive outlook I regularly voiced in these articles – clearly I shall have to raise my game and be far more cynical, sarcastic and outspoken in 2009.

Readers may recall we had a clear herd TB test back in November except for one inconclusive animal (which subsequently went clear on retest). With some crossbred calves and late calving cows to sell I therefore felt confident a pre-movement test would be a mere formality – more fool me.

Yet again, one cow (not the same one) has proven inconclusive, so now we have to wait two months for a retest. Luckily, with no TB history we are only restricted on moving the one affected cow – but with several local farms having suffered outbreaks I’m left wondering how long our luck will last.

The level of bovine TB in the UK is a national disgrace and our ‘Pontius Pilate Minister’ should be ashamed. However, the whisperings from Westminster suggest even a change of government would make little difference.

Time therefore for all of us, before the next election, to badger (sorry couldn’t resist the pun) our local prospective parliamentarians and get them to state – on the record (no easy task this, even for a “pro” like Jeremy Paxman) – just what they would do about this escalating problem.

Clearly in the interest of political impartiality all candidates should be approached. However, with at least one party advocating no controls on affected wildlife, accepting an annual budget of £80m pounds of taxpayers’ money while watching the incidence escalate, it may be difficult to discern just which candidate represents the Monster Raving Loonies.

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