‘No help is coming’, says farmer who lost 21 cows to bovine TB

A dairy farmer who had 21 cows slaughtered because of bovine TB has spoken of the devastation the disease is causing to farmers’ mental health and says she fears “no help is coming”.

Vale of Glamorgan farmer Abi Reader, who also chairs the NFU Cymru dairy committee, has posted a series of videos on her Twitter account (@AbiReader) detailing her TB story since testing a few weeks ago found that 21 of the 214 cows tested on her farm had the disease.

See also: Badger cull ‘exit strategy’ raises TB disease control fears

The cows that tested positive were removed from the herd on Tuesday (1 June). Sixteen were sent to the slaughterhouse and five were shot on the farm – two that were on antibiotics withdrawal and three that were heavily in-calf.

They had been due to give birth on 6, 9 and 13 June but were induced in an effort to save the calves.

Two healthy heifers were born, but the third calf died.

Ms Reader said politicians must take more responsibility and help the farming community in the fight to eradicate bovine TB.

“We are pulling every tool from the box, and they need to pull every tool from the box. I do genuinely believe in many cases that includes looking at the wildlife, no matter how controversial that is,” Ms Reader told Farmers Weekly.

“I am deeply disappointed that human health – that is, the health of our farmers – seems to be taking a back seat in all of this. No one seems interested. I feel like no help is coming and nobody cares.”

Abi Reader with the three pregnant cows

Abi Reader with the three in-calf cows © Abi Reader

Worries about isolated farmers

The dairy farmer said she worried about farmers on their own dealing with their herd going down.

“I only coped because people were there to catch me when I fell. What happens to those who are a one-man band? My team and South Wales Farm Vets went above and beyond.”

Ms Reader runs a closed herd and said she was hopeful replacements would not have to be bought in.

“We are making sure we have lots of sexed semen coming through the system and have had in-depth conversations with our AI rep.”

Wales’ chief vet Christianne Glossop has said the key area being worked on for the next five years in the country’s bovine TB strategy is a cattle vaccine and associated Differentiating Infected from Vaccinated Animals (Diva) test.

Defra has announced that field trials for this approach are expected to start in June in England and Wales. If successful, the government hopes the project will deliver a deployable cattle TB vaccine and Diva test by 2025. 

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “Losing any cattle is extremely distressing, but particularly so when pregnant, and we fully sympathise with the farm concerned.

“Bovine TB is an infectious disease, and failing to remove all infected animals from a herd can prolong TB breakdowns and potentially pose a risk to other cattle and other cattle herds.

“It is a priority of our comprehensive TB eradication programme to find and remove infected cattle from herds before they have the chance to infect others, while doing all we do can to save unborn calves as described in this case.”