08 May 1998
Inconclusive TB test freezes Cumbrian cattle unit
By Jeremy Hunt
A CUMBRIAN farmer has been unable to sell any cattle off his farm for five months as MAFF vets continue to test tissue cultures from a bull, now slaughtered, that had an inconclusive TB reaction last December.
Since a routine TB and brucellosis test at Alan Fawkes Linefoot Farm, Dearham, near Maryport, he has had no income from his 50 home-bred store cattle that should have been sold six weeks ago.
“If it were not for the support and understanding of all those who we trade with, our business would have been in jeopardy,” said Mr Fawkes.
He has had the full support of his own vet during the five-month saga which began on 18 December, 1997 with a routine TB test which produced an inconclusive reaction for the stock bull, while two cows had inconclusive reactions to brucellosis.
A restriction order was placed on the farm. After 30 days the two cows were re-tested and found to be clear. The bull had to wait until mid-February for a second test. With the restriction order still in place that test was also found to be inconclusive.
The decision was taken to slaughter the bull, but the MAFF vets said they wanted to make further investigations and that would involve the restriction order remaining for another 60 days.
With the bull off the farm Mr Fawkes vet undertook another “whole herd” TB test – even a two-day-old calf was tested. Every animal produced a negative result based on the standard skin calibration measurement.
Meanwhile, the first tissue cultures from the stock bulls lymph glands proved inconclusive for TB. Mr Fawkes expected the result would mean an immediate lifting of the order and allow him to sell his yard full of store cattle.
“The ministry now says it has identified a bacterium in the lymph gland that needs further investigation and I have to wait until early June before they have a result.
“How much longer can they freeze my income for a TB reactor when every test since December has proved inconclusive and the bull is dead anyway?”
Local MP Dale Campbell-Savours has taken up Mr Fawkes case with MAFF and the regional CLA office has been communicating with MAFF on his behalf. n
For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 8-14 May, 1998