Bovine TB could wipe out Dorset's dairy farming industry

Paul Gould

Paul Gould

First published in News Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

DORSET could lose its dairy farming industry if steps are not taken to combat bovine TB, the head of the National Farmers Union has said.

Meurig Raymond, president of the NFU, was speaking on a visit to the Dorset farm owned by Paul Gould,  the county chairman of the union.

It follows a devastating herd test revealing a quarter of Mr Gould’s in-calf animals will have to be slaughtered.

Mr Raymond said the NFU would double its efforts to lobby the government to roll out a badger cull in affected counties to tackle a ‘reservoir of disease’ in wildlife.

Mr Gould has farmed a closed herd for more than half a decade, meaning all of the cattle are born and bred on his North Dorset farm.

He believes the source of infection could therefore only come from wildlife.

Mr Raymond said government politics concerning the cull were causing ‘immense anger and frustration’ among farmers.

He added: “Farmers can’t understand how politics has taken over sensible decision making.

“I am calling on the government to have strength in their convictions and drive this policy forward to give farmers hope for the future.

“Other countries have eradicated the disease, and we need to look to them. We will keep fighting.”

The NFU is supportive of badger vaccination, Mr Raymond added, but believes this can only be effective in clean animals living in edge areas, unlike Dorset in which the disease is ‘endemic’.

He said: “We want healthy cattle and healthy wildlife. Consumers nowadays want to see cows out in pastures, but sadly that is where they are most vulnerable because they are coming into contact with diseased wildlife.”

More than 38,000 cattle were slaughtered last year in England and Wales after testing positive for bovine TB.

Mr Raymond said: “It is the emotions you go through in these circumstances, the loss of milk production, the years of breeding that you have put into it for this to happen. It is the absolute despair.

“My rallying call is for the government to get on with it. Otherwise we won’t have a livestock industry left in parts of this country.”

Comments (2)

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3:31am Sun 4 May 14

Cruachan says...

Really sorry to see Tb in a herd which has been closed for 10 years but this does not rule out the possibility that at least one cow/bull was infected and has broken down with infectious disease in her/his old age. It is possible that keeping these in sheds or feedlots in close confines that the disease will have spread to related and other animals in this herd.

Wildlife are usually involved by coming into contact with infected material, common feedstuffs etc.

Sadly like NZ the UK uses an antiquated test which can not give farmers security - a clear test is a best guess and not reliable. Killing wildlife might make everyone feel better and feel like they are doing something worthwhile however until the testing is brought into the 21st century or a vaccine is produced for difficult herds, this will continue to happen.

Do not place all your hopes on the Tb test is has a failure rate of 20% either way - don't kill you wildlife, fence them off your feedlots, and feed stuffs
Really sorry to see Tb in a herd which has been closed for 10 years but this does not rule out the possibility that at least one cow/bull was infected and has broken down with infectious disease in her/his old age. It is possible that keeping these in sheds or feedlots in close confines that the disease will have spread to related and other animals in this herd. Wildlife are usually involved by coming into contact with infected material, common feedstuffs etc. Sadly like NZ the UK uses an antiquated test which can not give farmers security - a clear test is a best guess and not reliable. Killing wildlife might make everyone feel better and feel like they are doing something worthwhile however until the testing is brought into the 21st century or a vaccine is produced for difficult herds, this will continue to happen. Do not place all your hopes on the Tb test is has a failure rate of 20% either way - don't kill you wildlife, fence them off your feedlots, and feed stuffs Cruachan
  • Score: 0

8:10pm Tue 6 May 14

Spectrum says...

Not for the first time Meurig Raymond is scaremongering. Badgers are NOT the real problem, and culling them is likely to make matters worse. The real threat to Dorset's dairy industry is the head-in-the-sand attitude which seeks to lay the blame on supposedly infected wildlife while farmers continue to buy new stock from farms with a dreadful history of bTB and continue to rely on a testing system which is clearly fallible, something that even Owen Paterson had to admit in the House of Commons. Time and again the skin test misses infected cattle. They stay in the herd and infect others. It's a vicious cycle and those older cattle lucky enough not to have their lives cut short because they no longer can meet the high milk yields demanded of today's herds often are the most heavily infected--as we see time and time again when apparently healthy TB-free cattle are eventuallyt slaughtered and found to be full of the disease. It's time Meurig Raymond put aside his prejudices, listened to the scientists and got down to the job of encouraging farmers to buy new stock only from farms with an excellent TB-free history. Time, too, that farmers stopped the nonsense of "buying blind", not caring where their new stock came from. And of course it would help if they did what Defra recommends and put in place biosecurity (disease prevention) measures. One last point, the dairy industry's losses from mastitis, lameness and infertility are much, much higher than the losses from bTB.
Not for the first time Meurig Raymond is scaremongering. Badgers are NOT the real problem, and culling them is likely to make matters worse. The real threat to Dorset's dairy industry is the head-in-the-sand attitude which seeks to lay the blame on supposedly infected wildlife while farmers continue to buy new stock from farms with a dreadful history of bTB and continue to rely on a testing system which is clearly fallible, something that even Owen Paterson had to admit in the House of Commons. Time and again the skin test misses infected cattle. They stay in the herd and infect others. It's a vicious cycle and those older cattle lucky enough not to have their lives cut short because they no longer can meet the high milk yields demanded of today's herds often are the most heavily infected--as we see time and time again when apparently healthy TB-free cattle are eventuallyt slaughtered and found to be full of the disease. It's time Meurig Raymond put aside his prejudices, listened to the scientists and got down to the job of encouraging farmers to buy new stock only from farms with an excellent TB-free history. Time, too, that farmers stopped the nonsense of "buying blind", not caring where their new stock came from. And of course it would help if they did what Defra recommends and put in place biosecurity (disease prevention) measures. One last point, the dairy industry's losses from mastitis, lameness and infertility are much, much higher than the losses from bTB. Spectrum
  • Score: 0

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