TB compensation falls short of disease cost

Compensation payments for cattle culled to control bovine tuberculosis do not meet the true costs of a herd breakdown, according to a study by Exeter University.

The report examined the economic impact of TB on the West Country farming industry and discovered far-reaching cost implications for stricken farms.

These varied widely from farm to farm, depending on the farming system, location and type of stock.

Including direct and indirect costs, the monthly losses from a TB breakdown, after compensation, ranged from £505 for an upland suckler herd, to £3184 for a pedigree dairy unit.

Movement restriction costs ranged from £3198 to over £55,000 per farm, and the mismatch between compensation payments and actual market values meant not all farms could afford to replace the cattle slaughtered.

“One farm only received sufficient compensation to replace just over 50% of their dairy cattle that had been slaughtered,” said the report.

“This was associated with a significant loss of revenue from reduced milk sales.” Those running closed herds also suffered badly from reduced revenues.

Last year, 7449 herds were subject to TB movement restrictions in Great Britain and of these 52% were in the south west of England.

“TB is imposing considerable costs on the personal well-being of many farm households and also raises profound livestock welfare issues,” said the report.

“With over 25% of holdings with cattle in the West Country likely to suffer a TB breakdown within the course of a year, understanding the cost implications on farm businesses is vital.”

Phil Norrey, chief executive of Devon County Council, which part-funded the research, said he believed the impact of TB was far greater than that of foot-and-mouth outbreak.

“Dairy farming is an essential part of the economy, landscape and culture of south west England, which, if lost, would be impossible to replace.

“Any system of compensatory payments will be imperfect and can be no substitute for a concerted approach to the eradication of the disease.”

• For more information on plans to control bovine TB in England and Wales click here.