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Bovine TB claims more cattle as 12,000 are culled

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: July 18, 2013

By Peter Hall

Bovine TB claims more cattle as cull rate increases

TB-stricken farmer Richard Reed

Comments (8)

Peter Hall

Farming Editor

More than 12,000 cattle were slaughtered due to bovine tuberculosis in the first four months of this year.

Government statistics show that nationally 12,061 cattle were compulsorily destroyed during that time.

This is slightly lower than the number of TB slaughtering across Britain during the same period last year, which was 12,279.

A controversial cull of badgers, to help stamp out the disease, is scheduled for this summer in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire.

The figures were greeted with dismay but not surprise by cattle farmers throughout the Westcountry yesterday. The statistics show that in April alone 2,740 cattle were slaughtered because of the disease.

There were 5,978 beef and dairy herds under movement restrictions having had cattle that either went down with the disease or reacted positively to tests. Of these 493 were in Cornwall, 1,043 in Devon, 180 in Dorset and 319 in Somerset.

"It's all desperately disappointing," said Bill Harper, who farms on the Cornwall and Devon border and is the TB representative on the National Beef Association's South West region.

"The figures just demonstrate how virulent a disease this is. It's running riot and an enormous concerted effort is needed to defeat it. It's driven by infected badgers, who are breeding. These statistics are nothing short of desperate, with continual reports of outbreaks throughout the region."

Cattle controls would simply stop people from farming – not stop the onward progress of the disease, he insisted. And he warned the Government was being disingenuous with its strategy, which contained nothing about a scheme for identifying diseased badger setts and will take 25 years to wipe out the disease.

Mr Harper added. "The Government should either take the shackles off farmers and allow them to deal with the disease themselves – or do it and shoulder the cost without placing the financial burden on farmers."

Melanie Squires, regional director of the National Farmers' Union, said farmers were already making huge efforts to contain TB at great financial and emotional cost, because of years of inaction.

She said: "With over 1,000 herds under restrictions in Devon alone, while it is at least good to see the Government launching a TB eradication strategy which includes tackling the disease in wildlife, principally badgers, farmers are hugely frustrated that this is over such a long timescale and fear livestock farming in the South West will be run down significantly. That would will hit the rural economy and jobs as well as depriving consumers of the locally produced food they say they want."

Mrs Squires said the problem had been brushed under the carpet for political expediency, and that thousands of cattle had been sacrificed for no significant gain – because the wildlife reservoir of TB has been the "elephant in the room".

She added: "While we welcome the current commitment to pilot badger culls, until farmers see these under way with a roll-out programme in place for other areas, the fear is that there is going to be yet more pain for farmers and their stock with no gain in terms of disease eradication.

"Our priority is to rid the countryside of disease for the benefit of cattle and badgers while ensuring that farmers are not straight-jacketed by restrictions, or rendered unviable by costs to the point where they simply cannot continue."

Farming Minister David Heath, Lib Dem MP for Somerton and Frome admitted TB was placing an enormous burden on farm incomes. "Once again these figures show the very real need to stop TB from its relentless march across the countryside," he said. "That's why we have launched our TB eradication strategy that sets out our plan to make England TB Free within 25 years.

"Bovine TB is the most pressing animal health problem in the UK, threatening cattle farmers' livelihoods and our farming industry as well as the health of wildlife and livestock and we must do all we can to get on top of it."

The figures showed the April 2013 TB incidence rate was 4.1%, compared to 3.8% in April 2012. The number of new herds affected by bovine TB during the four months was 1,838.

The Government is currently seeking comments on its strategy during a 12-week consultation period. It is also focusing on the development of new techniques such as badger and cattle vaccines and new diagnostic tests "that could one day offer new ways of tackling the disease".

The average cost of a TB herd breakdown is around £34,000, of which £22,000 falls to the taxpayer and £12,000 to farmers.

Last year a total of 28,000 cattle were slaughtered in England because of TB.

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8 comments

  • Clued-Up  |  July 19 2013, 8:43PM

    "The figures showed the April 2013 TB incidence rate was 4.1%, compared to 3.8% in April 2012". That provisional figure is disappointing - hopefully it's only a blip. Seen on a year by year basis, the TB incidence rate trend is clearly moving downwards and the previous 3 months incidence rate showed a month by month decline. The statistics show bTB disease isn't "out of control", the situation's actually improving.

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  • beefbreeder  |  July 18 2013, 6:00PM

    My comment should start "Poppyfield". Apologies, absolutely no offence intended.

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  • beefbreeder  |  July 18 2013, 5:59PM

    Poopyfield - you stated "Therefore there is a 97% drop in the compulsorily slaughter of cattle from last year" - do you want to withdraw this statement? From the figures you gave the drop is 2.2%. You also said: "It's driven by infected badgers, who are breeding." is a demonstrably false statement. In the Krebs trial about 50% of cattle TB infections were caused by badgers.

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  • poppyfield  |  July 18 2013, 2:04PM

    Christopher Orrett But all this means Free2opine is that less conclusions can be drawn from it, the only 2 facts not under codetta are • The number of new herd incidents during the period January to April 2013 was 1,838 compared to 1,940 for January to April 2012. The number of tests on officially TB free herds was 29,419 during January to April 2013, compared to 31,517 during January to April 2012. This difference is hardly significant enough to show a trend. Especially as the fraction of tests positive out of total is the same in both to 2 d.p. You would also be unable to draw a conclusion from this figure without fitting 'reason for testing' as a fixed effect. • The number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered as reactors or direct contacts was 12,006 during January to April 2013, compared to 12,279 during January to April 2012. Therefore there is a 97% drop in the compulsorily slaughter of cattle from last year on the raw data. However fixed effects / covariates for size of herd would need to account for the additional direct contacts based on herd size. In short there is no new trend information to be played by either camp. The whole article is disingenuous. The number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered as reactors or direct contacts was 12,006 during January to April 2013, compared to 12,279 during January to April 2012. If you have a more up to date source please quote them. These figures have been derived from the gov website https://http://tinyurl.com/gzm7u/government/publications/incidence-of-tuberculosis-tb-in-cattle-in-great-britain" target="_blank">http://tinyurl.com/cleyurm Editor please correct this story. As most of the comment is also inaccurate and based on the premise that TB went up in this period I would therefore consider withdrawing the story. As an epidemiologist with research interests in this subject. "It's driven by infected badgers, who are breeding." is a demonstrably false statement, the main predictor of TB is cattle movement something this story calls for the withdrawal of restrictions to. While I appreciate the role of the media in providing a forum for the airing of opinions this man is making dangerous uneducated statements to the public which if believed would make the situation much worse. It undermines the integrity of the farmers as well as a "This is Cornwall". Incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in cattle in Great Britain - Publications - Inside Government -... http://tinyurl.com/gzm7u Monthly GB statistics on the incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in cattle.

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  • Free2opine  |  July 18 2013, 1:20PM

    Perhaps you need to re-read the original report which is mentioned below. The figures were taken without all the incidents being collated from 2009 ONWARDS. This is almost the same problem as with the results with the Krebs trials where analysis is still ongoing. It is all very well making up your own stories, but, original reports are there for all to see.

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  • BrockStripes  |  July 18 2013, 1:05PM

    @Free2Opine You are being economical with the truth. Based on the figures provided in that report, which explains as you know since you posted it, that the month of April includes a number of unclassified incidents so may need revising, the overall trend of bTB incidents in cattle compared to the same period last year, is DOWN. "The key points relating to April 2013 are :- • The provisional April 2013 incidence rate is 4.1%, compared to 3.8% in April 2012. However, care needs to be taken not to read too much into short term figures, especially as this figure includes a number of unclassified incidents. As such, the incidence rates are subject to further revisions as more tests and their results for the period are input. • The number of new herd incidents during the period January to April 2013 was 1,838 compared to 1,940 for January to April 2012. The number of tests on officially TB free herds was 29,419 during January to April 2013, compared to 31,517 during January to April 2012. • The number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered as reactors or direct contacts was 12,006 during January to April 2013, compared to 12,279 during January to April 2012. "

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  • Free2opine  |  July 18 2013, 11:21AM

    @poppyfield Because the report you are showing was a provisional report, where the data regarding incidents, were not all collated. Part of that report:- These statistics are obtained from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) work management IT support system (Sam), used for the administration of TB testing in GB. They are a snapshot of the position on the date on which the data were extracted. The key points relating to April 2013 are :- • The provisional April 2013 incidence rate is 4.1%, compared to 3.8% in April 2012. However, care needs to be taken not to read too much into short term figures, especially as this figure includes a number of unclassified incidents. As such, the incidence rates are subject to further revisions as more tests and their results for the period are input. You are adding 2 + 2 and coming up with 5. and also why a lot of information, given out by the badger groups, is so unreliable.

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  • poppyfield  |  July 18 2013, 11:01AM

    So how come Defra are saying that less cattle were slaughtered in the four month period this year than last.https://http://tinyurl.com/lu5hp59

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