A few days ago our herd of suckler cows underwent its annual routine TB (Bovine Tuberculosis) test. This is an anxious time for any livestock farmer, as it can have devastating consequenses.
The TB test involved shaving two small sites on the cows neck, then measuring and recording the skin thickness at both sites.The vet then injects tiny amounts of deactivated TB virus of 2 types, 1 is bovine TB and the other is Avian TB.
The cows are then left for 72 hours and the skin in the 2 sites is measured again. If there is a thickening of the skin greater on the bottom site (bovine TB) by a specified amount, then this is a positive reaction, which is not good news!
Finding Tuberculosis present, even in just one cow has massive implications on the next year or more of our farming practices, let alone our income!
A positive reactor cow is taken away and slaughtered and a full examination of the lungs is made post mortem to confirm the infection is present. The farm is immediately placed under movement restriction, which means that no cattle may leave the farm unless going direct to slaughter. These restrictions are the same if you have one reactor or 100! Some local farms have lost 50 or more cows in one test, which is soul destroying when your whole life is dedicated to raising and caring for your herd.
If a farm has a positive test then all animals have to be retested every 60 days until 2 clear tests have been achieved, only then are cattle movement restrictions lifted. These extra tests place great strain on both man and beast; there is always a high risk of another failure, and the cows get to know what is coming and don’t like to cooperate!
A great deal is said in the press by all sides about the cause of the spread of TB from wildlife and the possible control of such. Each person must make up their own mind as to the facts and I will not get into that debate here.
Fortunately our test last week was clear, with no cows reacting so our business can carry on as usual. When we sell stock to another farm it must have been tested for TB in the 60 days prior to moving house. Sometimes this means an extra test for any cattle we need to sell, but we usually take advantage of a regular clear test result to sell our stock.
In June 2015 we bought our pedigree bull, Gawsworth Phil 28th, to be the new husband to our ladies (if you know what I mean, nudge nudge, wink wink!) He has done his job wonderfully well since then, but as time passes his daughters are now old enough to enter the herd as breeding animals.
This means Phil has to go (while we have a clear test window). We will miss him as he has been a well mannered chap who has produced some lovely calves. Fear not, he hasn’t gone to the great pie factory in the sky, but has moved on to a whole new herd of ladies!
Over the 3 years here he has fathered around 75 calves, many of which can be seen in the fields around the farm, and there are another 20 or so are still to be born this spring.
Shortly I will start looking for a new husband for my ladies, but not until July as a cow is pregnant for just over 9 months and we don’t want any calves born until April when the grass is growing again.
Watch this post for news of the new bull later in the year, as well as the calves when they start arriving in April.