When I heard that the TB wildlife intervention programme had failed to get over the line, I was very disappointed.

We all know that TB in wildlife is only part of the solution, so it might not have had a massive short-term impact on eradicating the disease, but at least it looked like someone was trying to make a difference.

TB testing has been happening as long as I can remember (which must be over 50 years), but we seem to be nowhere near eradicating it.

There currently seems to be as much TB (if not more) about the country as ever before.

Cull cows

A little over a year ago I sent some cull cows for slaughter. That afternoon I got the dreaded phone call to say that one had shown TB-like lesions. I was totally disgusted, as it messed up my plans to sell some in-calf heifers.

A few weeks later they confirmed the presence of TB, but to be honest, I found it all hard to believe. If there is a lump at a test, you can see it for yourself, but in this situation, they can tell you whatever they like and you have no way of knowing if it’s true or false.

Anyway, there was nothing I could do or say. I had to enter the spiral of TB testing. After four clear tests I thought that this would be the end of this chapter.

Young bulls

Three weeks after my last clear test I sent some bulls to the factory, and again I got the phone call to say that one had showed TB-like lesions. They told me the ear tag number and I told them that they must be wrong. This bull had been in the house continuously for the last 12 months and had been TB tested four times and clear every time.

The answer I got was to say that wildlife may have entered the house. There is no way that this could have happened and, to make matters worse, I sent all the cattle from this house to the factory and nothing else showed any signs. It’s complete madness to suggest that 24 cattle could be housed together for a year and TB tested four times (clear) and that one has TB. It makes no sense to me.

There was even worse to follow. When the letter arrived, it had a different animal’s ear tag number. I decided not to say anything for the time being. I was told that they would be in touch with me after two weeks to confirm or rescind the suspected TB. Well, six weeks later I’ve heard nothing.

Other farmers

Since this happened to me, I have been talking to other farmers and there are loads in very similar situations. If it wasn’t so serious it would be laughable.

What is the point in TB testing if after clear tests you are going to have suspected cases appearing at slaughter? If, after 50 years there’s no improvement, then something is wrong.

My personal opinion is that there is a whole industry built up around TB. So many people get a living from the TB eradication program and the farmer is not one of them. If TB were eradicated, there would be a lot of people out of work.

I honestly believe there is not a genuine desire to eradicate the disease. The only people who really want TB eradicated is the farmers and we have no say.

Demand action

It’s time we farmers stood up for ourselves and demand positive action from government and politicians, including around the accuracy of the current test. Ultimately, we might even have to consider whether we continue to fully comply with all the rules and regulations around TB testing.

The amount of money being thrown at this over the years and still no further forward, is scandalous.

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