Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The misery of Bovine Tuberculosis

The misery which bovine tuberculosis (BTB) brings to the British farming industry continues unabated and latest figures released indicate that the disease problem is getting worse rather than better despite increased bio-security measures which have been introduced in an attempt to control the disease.

Last week Defra released the most up to date figures which showed that 3,215 cattle were slaughtered in January alone, which was a 24.2% increase on the number slaughtered in the previous January. Indeed in total 186,664 cattle have been slaughtered in the Great Britain since 1st January 2008 of which 37,754 were slaughtered in 2012 as compared to 34,245 in 2011.

At a local level matters are also getting worse. This has been brought home to me in recent weeks in particular as I have visited a number of dairy farms in mid-Somerset who are suffering serious problems as a result of the disease.

Some farms may only have experienced a low number of reactors and so although they may have only had one or two cattle lost to the disease, the consequential losses in terms of restriction on the movement and sale of cattle can be very serious. This is a particular problem for dairy farmers where many may have relied on selling calves at a young age but find themselves having to hold on to these animals, in many cases being forced to house and rear them for 2 years or more.

This obviously puts a huge strain on resources, whether it is labour needed to help rear the extra cattle, buildings in which to house the cattle or simply cash required to pay for the above and the extra feed and bedding which may also be required.

These problems are compounded when a significant number of cattle are taken from a herd and again it is dairy farmers who face the most difficult challenges. This is because although farmers are compensated for the animal which is lost, there is no compensation available for the consequential losses. Thus if a dairy cow is lost, although compensation will be received for the cow, this will not be enough to purchase a similar replacement animal and nor will there be compensation for the loss in milk production until the cow can be replaced.

It is estimated the cost to a farmer of an average BTB breakdown is around £12,000 and where a significant number of cows are lost this will be considerably more. So it is no wonder farmers are so desperate to see action taken to reduce the incidence of this devastating disease and although it is appreciated that culling badgers will not be a panacea it is seen as one of the weapons which will have to be introduced if this disease is to be brought under control.


James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells

T: 01749 683381
E: james.stephen@carterjonas.co.uk