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TB in cattle is causing industry big concerns

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: January 23, 2014

  • HUMAN COST: Andy Jerrard.

  • BIG ISSUE: Tracey Peat.

  • HARDSHIP: Nigel Short.

  • STRESSED: Geoffrey Brown.

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A LIVESTOCK market chaplain says bovine TB is undermining the lives of farmers and their animals in North Devon.

The crisis is causing misery for many farmers and threatens the industry's future. It's the main, often the only, topic of general conversation among those trying to earn a living from rearing cattle.

And it's increasingly worrying people working in agriculture's other businesses, such as feed, transport and animal welfare.

"It's the human cost," said market chaplain and rural support worker, Andy Jerrard.

"I've been in meetings and at the orange market where people are relatively calm and measured but, nearly always, at some point, they explode because the emotional pressure is so high, and it's suddenly uncorked.

"One young man who keeps cattle said it's like taking your A levels every 60 days and waiting for the results each time.

"How they manage their business depends on the test.

"Potentially this will kill the livestock industry."

For many farmers the disease impinges gradually, eating away at their cash flow and saddling them with a growing burden of paper work that has to be done if they want to avoid legal action.

Helen Fuller and her husband run a livestock haulage firm and see the pressure heaped on their farming customers and friends.

"It's very hard out there at the moment," she said. "The paperwork is an absolute nightmare and then there's feed and bedding. It's a serious welfare issue if they test positive. You can't run your business as you want to."

Animal health worker, Tracey Peat, from Swimbridge, said: "Farmers are really struggling, moneywise. It's a very big issue especially in the dairy industry.

"And if it's beef cattle it's very hard because they can't sell, they've got no income and have to find the extra feed and medicines."

Insurance agent Mike Smale said: "TB wasn't here before they brought in protection for badgers, and now they've got so common and farmers are paying the price for that protection. What about the thousands and thousands of cattle that are killed?"

Cattle and sheep farmer Geoffrey Brown added: "The cattle are becoming so much more stressed. Every farmer will agree that the livestock industry could die because of the TB crisis.

"Who knows what will happen if this goes on. A lot of people will go out of business," said Nigel Short, joint director of Pickards agricultural merchants based in Burrington and Washford.

"Say somebody tests 140 cattle and there's one inconclusive. That bullock may not even have it but the herd has to be tested and every time an animal is tested it comes under terrific strain. They might die just because of the test.

"And if you get the paperwork wrong you get treated like a criminal. There have been prosecutions because they didn't get the paper work right. It's causing a lot of hardship."

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