Farmer Focus: TB clear, brucellosis questionable

We recently completed our annual TB and brucellosis tests on the farm with mixed results.

After a long day testing and another long day reading the results, we are officially TB free. However, blood samples from the brucellosis test flagged up three slightly high readings and this has resulted in all movements from the herd being restricted.

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I can just about 99.9% guarantee that we do not have any brucellosis in the herd, but as usual our veterinary department like to make life difficult for us. A more expensive, accurate test would be the answer, but they choose to use the cheaper, less accurate one and keep us waiting on repeat tests, with stock numbers and stress levels increasing daily while we wait.

The start of February saw the lifting of the slurry and fertiliser bans for Northern Ireland. Some welcome dry weather meant we were able to get slurry spread on silage ground. It also allowed us to spread 155kg/ha of urea on the grassland.

With quite a mild winter, past grass covers are very good and the decision was made not to cover some of these fields with slurry as it could damage the long swards. Cutting time will tell if this was the right decision when we see the yields from these fields.

At our local Ulster Farmers Union group meeting we had UFU president Ian Marshal give us an update on the CAP. He also gave an insight into his role as president.

Although some parts of the CAP are now set in stone, other parts are still being finalised. This is quite annoying as we are expected to make plans for the year ahead without fully knowing the consequences under new rules and regulations.

One point was made clear regarding the current tough times were are experiencing – we need to be more focused on helping ourselves and promoting our produce rather than waiting for someone to do it for us.

We need to try to remain positive and upbeat to encourage people to pursue agricultural careers. If we keep talking it down ourselves, why would anyone want to come on board?

Thomas Steele milks 450 Holstein Friesian cows on a 263ha farm in Co Down, Northern Ireland. He was 2012 Farmers Weekly Dairy Farmer of the Year.