Farmer Focus: Losing favourite cows to TB was a career low

The major highlight for us as a family this month is a clear TB test. This is our second clear test over the winter, and means we are clear for the first time in three-and-a-half years.

This part of Wales was known as a very clean area. Then, about 10 years ago, the first case of TB was detected, and slowly it has crept its way nearer.

About the author

Dafydd Parry Jones
Dafydd Parry Jones and wife Glenys, Machynlleth, Powys, run a closed flock of 750 Texel and Aberfield cross ewes and 70 Hereford cross sucklers cows on 180ha. Their upland organic system uses Hereford bulls, Charollais terminal sires and red clover silage, multi species leys and rotational grazing.
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A phone call out of the blue on a Monday afternoon back in October 2018 informed us of lesions found in a heifer that we had recently taken to slaughter.

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It was a severe blow, triggering a lockdown with restrictions on bovine movements, and starting the TB rollercoaster nightmare we have lived with ever since.

Apart from the continuous testing every two to three months, the worst part was regularly losing young, productive, home-reared cows.

It has been difficult. On one occasion we lost 10% of the herd, including our stock bull, over the Christmas period. That was not a happy Christmas.

The most traumatic experience of all was the shooting of two heavily pregnant cows in the yard.

They were pet cows named Leisa and Liz and were regarded as some of the most productive cows on the farm.

They had been regular contestants in the cow-and-calf competition at our local Aberhosan show.

Pushing those cows into the cattle crush was the worst job I’ve had to do in my farming career.

The only consolation was that it was a farming and not a family issue, and I didn’t have to face that day alone. I had a family to share the tears with back in the house.

The clean status has not been easy. We have cleaned and disinfected the buildings and water troughs on a regular basis.

We sheeted gates and created solid fences around the yard to keep unwanted species out.

And we also had to change our grazing patterns to avoid cattle grazing certain areas of the farm.

Unfortunately, many other farming families will have to keep facing
similar experiences for many years to come, as the Welsh government fails to tackle the source of the TB infections.

Continuously taking infected animals off the farm is just a short-term solution to a long-term problem.