It is good to see that there seems to be some movement on the TB front and that (at long last) there is a plan coming forward to eradicate TB from NI.
There has been TB testing in this country for as long as I can remember and, in all fairness, we are not any closer to TB eradication than we were 50 years ago.
I am fairly lucky in that I have not had a lot of TB in my herd. On a few occasions there have been small outbreaks but never any more than one or two animals at a time.
However, on numerous occasions I have had to do extra tests because of an outbreak in a neighbouring herd, and this has become a real drag.
I have recently received a letter from my local veterinary office informing me about a TB outbreak in a neighbour’s herd and that I would have to do a Lateral Check Test (LCT).
My annual herd test was not due until the end of July but (because someone thinks that my herd is at risk) I got notification that I needed to test within the next three weeks.
This was just at the start of the busiest time of year here (calving was getting under way and lambing was due to begin in two weeks). I was so disgusted - this was the last thing I needed.
I am all for changes, but changes need to be improving things for the better
What really annoyed me was the fact that the notification came via a computer-generated letter, and I do not believe that a real person even considered my situation.
I rang my own vet and made arrangements for a TB test and told them that I was going to try and get it postponed for a couple of weeks (until I got through some of the calving and lambing).
I then tried to ring my Divisional Veterinary Office (DVO). But gone are the days that you can ring them direct. You now have to ring a call centre and after listening to a recording about how busy they are (a lot more busy than us farmers by the sounds of it), you eventually get talking to someone who redirects you to your local DVO.
Again, you wait on hold for someone to answer (this is supposed to be progress and a simpler system!).
I eventually got talking to a nice young lady and I tried to explain my situation to her.
Sadly, she did not want to know. She told me to write it down and either post in a letter or an email and the appropriate person would consider it and respond.
This was really annoying as it was hard to put into words what my issue was, and I would have much preferred to speak to an actual person.
Anyway, I wrote the letter and sent it off. Again, I received a computer-generated reply to say that someone would look at it and get back to me within seven days.
On my letter I had stated how disappointed I was that I was not able to talk to someone in person and that I hoped someone would phone me with the reply.
Sadly, no-one phoned, and I just received another computer-generated letter to say that they had considered my appeal and rejected it. So, there was nothing else for it but to go ahead with the test, which was arranged for three weeks ago.
The day before the TB test was to take place, I received a phone call to say that the vet had COVID-19 and would be unable to do the test.
They said that they would ring the DVO and OK it with them, and we made arrangements for another TB test.
I then received another computer-generated letter from DAERA, but this time, it was a lot stronger and threatened me with the possibility of having to do to extra TB tests before being opened to sell cattle in the mart.
At this stage, I would like to get talking to some actual person and ask for an apology, as at no point have I done anything wrong. I suppose that even a computer-generated apology would be nice.
I think the only way that we will ever get over the current TB problem is if actual human beings take control again and show a little bit of common sense. I am all for changes, but changes need to be improving things for the better.