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Beef producers want focus on new vaccine

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: October 24, 2012

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Despite losing more than half of their valuable organic herd of beef cattle, a Devon farming partnership is against the badger cull.

Robert James and Kate Palmer think the pilot culls in west Somerset and around Tewkesbury are a waste of time, money and effort.

"If you cull badgers in one place, within months other badgers will come back in. Then what will happen? It will not stop TB," said Robert James, who farms more than 100 acres of organic land at Witheridge, in north Devon.

He and his partner, Kate Palmer, have seen their valuable herd of Ruby Red Devon cattle decimated by bovine TB – and they are well aware of the part badgers can play in spreading disease, which caused the deaths of 26,000 cattle nationally last year.

The partnership at West Yeo Farm had 30 cows, plus their calves earlier this year, but the herd is now reduced to just 20, after cattle failed TB tests.

Several were found not to have TB at post mortem – but most tragic of all was the loss of the award-winning stock bull. Mr James explained: "We've lost half our herd of pedigree Devon cattle to TB this year. Our bloodlines go back 70 years and can't be replaced."

Eighty-five per cent of Ruby Red bloodlines were now crossed with Saler cattle and he has been unable to replace the lost animals with purebred Devons, he said.

Now the partners are petitioning the Government to step up development of an effective TB vaccine for cattle – and pay realistic compensation for the loss of organic cattle, instead of a flat rate.

Mr James added: "We've lost over £15,000, as the Government does not pay organic market prices in compensation. We had four cows killed that did not have TB."

But the loss of the stock bull was worse. Mr James explained: "At £14,000 he was the highest-priced Devon bull at auction in the UK. I cried when I had to load him. Kate could not be there because she was so upset. We were so proud when we bought him in spring 2008 at the Ruby Red Devon Society sale at Sedgemoor Market and he was champion on the day, bred by the Dart family at Molland on Exmoor. We've sold semen from him all over the world. Now he's just 660 kilos of dead meat hanging on a hook."

But still he opposes the cull. "I have a friend who farms on Exmoor whose herd has gone down with TB, without a badger on the farm and with no new stock bought in. The answer was TB in the wild red deer population."

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  • badgerhugger  |  October 24 2012, 7:03PM

    At last someone is pointing out that slaughtered animals are later proven to be clear of TB. These numbers should be subtracted before the government quote the inflated cost of the disease. The cost is due to poor testing and that is where the emphasis should be placed. More evidence has emerged that Liver Fluke affects the testing and many supposed animals are actually clear. Until this is resolved we will not know how serious the disease is.

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