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Anti-badger cull farmer: Improving cattle welfare will help fight bovine TB

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 12, 2012

  • Steve Jones believes improving cattle welfare works in the fight against TB

  • National Farmers’ Union bovine TB spokesman and dairy farmer Jan Rowe says it is not about how you farm, but where

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An anti-badger cull campaigner has launched a service to help farmers up their bio-security and reduce bovine TB.

Dairy farm worker Steve Jones has launched the new service to help rural workers improve cattle welfare and so reduce susceptibility to diseases such as bovine tuberculosis – an alternative to allowing badgers to be killed as part of the Government’s trial culling policy.

But National Farmers’ Union bovine TB spokesman and dairy farmer Jan Rowe, from Whittington, near Cheltenham, said although good husbandry is important, it’s not a guarantee against infected stock.

“Good stockmanship is important, but the very best farms with the best bio-security still go down with bovine TB,” said Mr Rowe, a director of GlosCon, the company set up to organise the trial badger cull in Gloucestershire before it was postponed.

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“It’s more about where you farm, not how you farm.”

Mr Jones, from The Pludds in the Forest of Dean, spent his career working in the organic livestock and commercial dairy industry in the UK and abroad.

He has launched www.not-in-this-farmers-name.com, an on-farm consultancy to increase productivity while lowering disease because he believes that killing badgers is a “pointless distraction”.

He said the real cause is poor cattle welfare and lax bio-security, leading to increased vulnerability to disease.

“I have 35 years of hands-on experience of working on farms and I know that diseases like bovine tuberculosis don’t take hold on farms by chance,” said Mr Jones. “Many diseases are invited in, are slow to be tackled and often reach epidemic proportions because of sub-standard management.

“As a herdsman I have maintained an exemplary record of disease resistance, but killing wildlife plays no part in achieving that.

“It angers me greatly to see the Government stubbornly pursue a badger cull when this doesn’t have the farmers’ best interests at heart and won’t deliver the long-term solution they so desperately need.

“As well as causing needless suffering to badgers, slaughtering our wildlife is also causing a rift between farmers and the public. This can’t go on.”

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  • stevenmichael  |  December 15 2012, 7:17PM

    For David Heath to say that there should be a personal boycott of foer grar; speaks of hypocrisy at the highest level. I agree that it is an obscene reflection upon the farmers that produce such a product, but then a great deal of cruelty goes on within our own shores the magnitude of which needs equal attention. Let us just consider this: An indigenous wild animal that has been living alongside man for thousands of years suddenly finds itself in the sites of gunmen. The purpose of this is not to take out sick individuals, but to render family units incapable of sustaining themselves and to nurture a lack lustre population that will in due course become stressed and susceptible to disease. The purpose of this is because we think that the population of these creatures is too great and that they have become diseased. Do we know how many there are – NO. We do not know the population of badgers in the UK; some people think that it has doubled in a matter of months even despite one of the worst summers on record. What percentage of these animals are sick? WE DON'T KNOW. It is reasonable to assume that if numbers have risen so dramatically and in such a short time and during such a poor year that this creature must be a bit of a success story and must be, therefore, sustaining a healthy population. Do they spread disease to other animals? – WE DON'T KNOW. Certainly as far as cattle are concerned it is very unlikely. A reservoir of infection has been building up in cattle herds during the past thirty years. This has not and continues not to be addressed effectively. Is it scientific – NO. The majority of science is now against the cull of this species, in order to alleviate a disease that is controllable with the correct approach and management systems in place. Is it humane – NO. To Free Shoot an animal in the dark is is a difficult thing to do, even for the most professional of assassins. You would be lucky to have one clean shot of one animal. Further attempts that were made on escaping victims would only maim and injure. Theses unfortunate creatures would die in a slow and painful way especially due the fact that they were the healthiest individuals to begin with. Is it a popular decision – NO. Farmers themselves expect a 40% backlash from the public should a cull take place. They cannot afford this for consumers are increasingly conscious of how their food is produced. Are there any parallels to draw on this subject – YES. A Government Minister is calling for an abstention of conscience when deciding to purchase food stuffs that are particularly inhumane as to their production. Will the general public follow this Minister in his moral stance on a cruel method of production? – YES. People seem increasingly aware of how their food is produced and they wish to engage with their environment in a holistic and humane way. What is this animal called? It is called WILDLIFE. This Government has vowed to bare down hard on British wildlife in order to stifle disease. Why are they doing this? Because the hierarchy of farmers believe THAT IT'S NOT HOW YOU FARM IT'S WHERE YOU FARM!! Is there an alternative approach – YES. Visit http://tinyurl.com/c9uhz94

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  • Jude177  |  December 15 2012, 1:46PM

    As always the voice of reason and logic from a truly engaged and experienced farmer who does have the environment, the future of our countryside, animal welfare and above all the future and survival of sustainable farming as the guiding principles not short-termism-more power to you!

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  • stevenmichael  |  December 15 2012, 11:50AM

    Hearts and Minds After the Governments debacle over the proposed pilot badger cull. It was not a surprise to me for I expected this misconceived idea to grind to a halt somewhere down the line; I was somewhat amazed, however, when the train became derailed before it left the station. This was due not only to the deluge of public opinion that has been gaining momentum against the badger cull, but also due to public safety concerns that would have undoubtedly arisen once the first shots were fired. Where do we go from here? This is where the real battle begins; the spoils of this particular war is going to be the hearts and minds of public opinion. Already the policy has lost the confidence within the House of Commons, but this is not the end, for they may continue with their course of action and not bow to public opinion. This coalition government will be fighting determinedly over the next six or so months in order to implement the badger cull next summer. The decimation of the badger population is one of their flagship policies and if implemented will open the door to a more aggressive approach to the countryside and our environment. The next step along this road will be the repealing of the law against fox hunting. All the while using the same spurious arguments; selective science and bolstered up with propaganda to enable these ends to be met. Team Badger and all the plethora of animal charities will be opposing this view by lobbying equally as vociferously in their attempt to sway judgement in the direction of a more humane approach to the bovine tb dilemma. The problem here, from their view point, is how to engage with the public, many of which do not have an informed opinion on how the food reaches their plate. So the polarisation begins. There are those who would run roughshod over the environment with the misguided view that we can exploit nature in order to produce our food. Vegans and vegetarians will be putting their points forward too, they would suggest that we would be better placed to give up milk and meat altogether and rely on plant proteins. I would say this: We would miss a wonderful opportunity of being able to engage with our countryside, show our humanity in the way that we treat our livestock and to make use of the most prolific crop on earth, that being grass! My part in all this is one of being an independent lobbyist in my attempt to inform the public at every opportunity and engage with the industry in order to pursue a more holistic approach to the problem of bovine tb. Culling badgers will, through perturbation, make the problem of bovine tb more likely to increase; also some of the healthiest badgers will be those that are shot and wounded, leaving the older and less robust ones to form a lack lustre breeding nucleus to repopulate the future generations. Cattle Vaccination must be the way forward but to rely on this alone would be a complete folly. There are other forms of relinquishing the hold of tuberculosis upon our herds and I will highlight them over the coming months.

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  • Mikethepike  |  December 14 2012, 11:42PM

    A typically negative comment from Jan Rowe. No, of course, biosecurity is not a silver bullet, it won't stop bTB in its tracks, but it would reduce the likelihood of one species infecting another. Why else would Defra recommend it. Just a pity that they don't make it a condition of taxpayers handouts in compensation.

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  • docrichie  |  December 14 2012, 6:31PM

    That's good news, I'll study your work in more detail. I dashed off my initial response first. The book is obtainable from Amazon (if you can bring yourself to use them!) and Abebooks I think for next to nothing! Keep up the good work.

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  • stevenmichael  |  December 14 2012, 6:07PM

    Docrichie I am aware of the link between trace elements and the influence of bovine tb. I do use this as part of my ten point plan to combating the disease. Thank you for your endorsement. I would like to read your book.

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  • docrichie  |  December 14 2012, 5:41PM

    So much good sense here, thank you Steven. My book 'The fate of the badger' (Batsford) was published in 1986, that's over 25 years ago and very little has changed in that time. The book was written after serving for 3 years on the Government's Consultative Panel. I would add to Steven's comments, my concerns about compromised immune systems due to inorganic farming and the consequential scarcity of trace elements in the soil and environemt, in particular selenium (which even affect us). I despair of the bias and misinformation beleaguered farmers are getting. Dr Richard Meyer

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  • stevenmichael  |  December 12 2012, 10:46PM

    THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY OUT HERE! Our farming communities have to abandon any idea of a cull. There is a reliable alternative that can alleviate any need for a badger cull. There is time to sort out bovine tb and a host of other problems within our cattle industry before next summer. The NFU are heading for a very intimidating and damaging home goal and it will be our farmers that lose the match. Visit http://tinyurl.com/cf75rsv and badger cull not in this farmer's name.

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  • stevenmichael  |  December 12 2012, 10:35PM

    Tuberculosis exists in the environment; if you killed every badger then you would have to move down the species scale, taking them out one by one until you removed some thirty two different creatures from these islands. The next in line after the badger will probably be the deer; as you know we can eat deer, so we could well be in for a culinary treat as our politicians try to influence our eating habits by wavering between beef and deer. It is easy to see how ridiculous the argument soon becomes. This idea of tuberculosis infecting grazing land is a spurious argument. If we removed all the badgers from our countryside, we would still have tuberculosis in the environment. It would be kept alive by other species that frequent our pasture land. Indeed, there is a plethora of environmental diseases that will always be present no matter how much we may deplore this. The presence of infection in small amounts is actually a good thing. Exposure to contagion has an important role to play in the fight against infection. The idea is to reach equilibrium whereby a disease and a host can co-exist. This symmetry, however, is compromised when other factors come into play. These include other infections; stress or stressful situations; starvation or an abundance of the infectious agent that may swamp the host. Water trough contamination and exposure to bovine tb in the form of infected herd members would achieve this. We need farmers and stockmen that understand these basic principles of bio security and good livestock husbandry and only then will the issue of culling one animal in favour of another, come to an end. This is where my website http://tinyurl.com/cf75rsv comes in. We have time to make a difference NOW and anything that falls short of a response is pure negligence of the problem.

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  • stevenmichael  |  December 12 2012, 6:22PM

    There are many reasons why bovine tb has increased significantly since the 1980's. I worked abroad, managing some of the highest yielding and most disease resistant dairy herds in the world. I returned home in the mid 1980's and I could not believe just how our livestock industry had changed during a ten year period. If I am an expert at anything then I would call myself a perfectionist at dairy husbandry. I started up a business, whereby I travelled around the Midlands, Wales and the South West of England, trouble shooting on farms that were under performing. This was probably the most rewarding episode of my entire working life. I would manage the herd or sometimes the entire dairy enterprise, including: calf rearing, hoof trimming, breeding policy, parlour maintenance etc. Working in foreigner lands, where endemic diseases such as foot and mouth, rinderpest, anthrax, tuberculosis and many other problems exist outside the farm gate, has made me very aware of biosecurity. I understand the concept of having a division between the farm and the countryside environment. It must be a negligent attitude to allow any on farm infection to invade the wider ecosystem. If one does not adhere to this principle, then the environment will eventually return to be the thorn in your side; in my opinion this is precisely what has happened with bovine tb. IT IS DURING THIS PERIOD OF TIME THAT BOVINE TB MADE ITS ENEXORABLE MARCH UPON OUR CATTLE INDUSTRIES AND BSE WAS THE CATALYST FOR THIS CHANGE. When I returned to the UK the country was reeling from BSE (mad cow disease). This was not cows behaving badly, but cows that had a severe attitude to being managed. This condition was caused by meat derivatives being put into cattle and sheep rations that were not being sufficiently heat treated to remove all of the harmful effects that would enable them to be incorporated into herbivore's rations. I remember this episode of my working life very well indeed. While employed in Wiltshire I was kicked badly on two separate occasions. I understood cow behaviour, but I was sent reeling when a cow who was previously quiet gave me such a strike that I was hardly able to walk for two weeks. It happened a second time by a different cow; the cattle industry found itself gripped in a BSE epidemic. I found my safety being continually compromised by having to work on a variety of farms in the south west where there seemed to be a profusion of farms affected by this terrible disease. Ministers were understandably slow to react and when they did, they assured people that it was fine to eat meat and drink milk. One, not to be named minister,(what the heck, John Gummer) had his daughter eat a beef burger (containing mechanically recovered meat) on national TV assuring the public that meat was perfectly safe to eat. It transpired that it was the government that lowered the recommended legal limit required to sterilise the meat meal, thus allowing spongiform virus to exist beyond purification. It would be nice if this were resigned to history but unfortunately it is probably going to become our history. Even some twenty five years after this I still encounter old mouldy feed in the corners of feed stores and galvanised feed silos caked with a solid mass of festering feed rations, much of which is likely to have stemmed from the height of the BSE era. What have I learnt from this? Never trust a politician and always adhere to core biosecurity standards.

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