The soul-destroying effect of bovine TB on a dairy farming business has been laid bare in a new video.
Cheshire dairy farmer Ian McGrath has been fighting a constant battle with TB since 2002.
Although Defra considers the county to be in the “edge area” of the disease, Mr McGrath has lost more than 130 cows to TB in that time.
In the video, posted on the TB Free England website and on YouTube, he explains how the results of his latest TB test have been the hardest to bear.
“Today we’ve got 11 TB reactors being loaded up. It’s particularly hard because among the animals going today is probably the best cow I’ve ever bred,” he said.
“What’s really upsetting is that she is actually eight weeks off calving and we know she is carrying a heifer calf. But, to be blunt, that cow will be dead by dinner time, as will the calf inside her.”
One of Mr McGrath’s stock bulls, known as Fred – one of the last calves his late father saw born on the farm – is among the animals taken away for slaughter.
“Fred was born a few days before my dad died suddenly and dad picked him out and said what a good calf he was and that we ought to keep him for breeding,” said Mr McGrath.
“So we kept him for breeding and now, 15 months on, he’s gone with TB. Hopefully, though, he’s got some cows in calf and we’ll have some calves by Fred before Christmas.”
Mr McGrath said the relentless pressure of dealing with the disease has had a big effect on him and his family.
“It gets to the point of being soul-destroying, really. What almost is the point of breeding the best cows? We’ve still got to carry on in the hope that one day we’ll be clear of TB. It’s mentally exhausting to do this every 60 days,” he added.
“We’ve come to expect it, but it doesn’t make it any easier. You have to shut it out of your mind and forget that they’ve gone and just start milking again tonight and hope that the next load of heifers to calve will replace them.
“As farmers we accept that cattle have to go for slaughter, but when they’re going for TB it’s very premature in their life and it’s not the way we expect it.”
In an earlier video, posted on the TB Free England YouTube site in 2013, Mr McGrath explained how bovine TB and attempts to keep his animals healthy and free of the disease had “taken over his life”.