Home secretary Theresa May paid a visit to farmers to discuss government plans to fight bovine TB.
Farmers told Ms May, Conservative MP for Maidenhead, about testing, vaccination and the scientific arguments for and against badger culling, as part of government measures to eradicate the disease.
See also: Bovine TB and the badger cull
The meeting, which brought together six farmers and NFU South East regional director William White, took place at Paul Rinder’s Stroud Farm in Holyport, Maidenhead.
Berkshire farmer Colin Rayner, who attended the event, said the minister was shown a mock TB test of Mr Rinder’s cattle and a vet explained all the different issues surrounding the problems of the reliability of TB testing.
“Ms May is one of only a handful of Cabinet ministers to witness a TB test,” said Mr Rayner, after her visit.
“We were telling her how unreliable the tests were and about how you can have reactors even when you don’t have TB.
“If you test cattle, you are likely to have three reactors out of every 1,000 cattle tested, even if they have not got TB.”
Mr Rayner, who has a fold of 32 Highland cattle at Berkyn Manor Farm, in nearby Horton, which must undergo a mandatory six-month TB testing regime. The herd remains free of TB.
“We also explained the cost to the industry, the number of TB tests carried out in Berkshire last year and the stress it causes to cattle going through the crush,” he added
“We also explained that a number of farmers and vets have been killed over the last few years carrying out the tests and how a lot of animals had died unnecessarily.”
Later during the visit, the attention switched to the recent flooding of farms in the Thames region.
Farmers were pleased to hear that Ms May supported their calls for maintenance and dredging of watercourses and rivers to alleviate flooding of farmland.