As part of the government’s 25-year strategy to eradicate TB, farming minister George Eustice visited the West Country to launch a new cross-industry TB biosecurity campaign which includes the introduction of the TB Hub (www.tbhub.co.uk), a website providing beef and dairy farmers with a range of free advice.
But he was unable to answer my question.
The website has been created by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) in conjunction with the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the British Cattle Veterinary Association, Defra, Landex and the NFU, to provide information on all aspects of dealing with TB on farms.
Among the guidance is a five-point plan outlining measures farmers should take to help protect their herds from bovine TB. The plan includes the following common sense advice:
- Restrict contact between badgers and cattle
- Manage cattle feed and water to reduce the chance of contamination by other infected cattle or badgers
- Stop infected cattle entering the herd by careful investigation of the TB history of purchased cattle and post movement testing of new cattle before introducing them in to the herd
- Reduce risk from neighbouring herds by awareness of their TB status and ensuring barriers between herds are kept in place
- Minimise risk of infection from cattle manure by ensuring all manure is well rotted and spread on land used for arable purposes or if spread on pasture the land is not grazed for at least two months.
The website expands on these points in detail and while some of the measures are more practical than others, the clear message is that although the government will continue the badger cull in certain areas, they also expect farmers to do their bit by heeding the biosecurity measures set out in this five-point plan.
George Eustice was also asked about the effectiveness of this autumn’s badger culling programme in three areas of the West Country and although he said that we will have to wait for the official results to be announced it appeared he felt things had gone rather more successfully this year than in the previous two.
However, what we really need to know is not how successful marksmen have been at killing badgers but whether the culling has had any impact on the occurrence of TB in cattle. Although we have anecdotal evidence that it has helped, the government needs to carry out a proper analysis of the evidence which will help inform the decision whether the cull areas should be expanded.
James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells
T: 01749 683381