Saturday, April 29, 2017

Contradictions?

It has always puzzled us that Natural England - or whatever they call themselves this week - have control over the wildlife reservoir of zoonotic Tuberculosis in Great Britain. In almost every other country in the world it is 'Animal Health' or its equivalent, which is the Government department responsible for clearing up Grade 3 zoonotic pathogens in animals. Our department is concentrating one hundred per cent on cattle, as we explained in the previous posting.

 We spoke of our concerns as long ago as 2011, when this quango published its guidance - [link] for the proposed pilot badger culls. Natural England are also on record, off the record, as saying that the cull protocols would be as difficult as they could possibly make them.

This luke warm response to eradication of zTB in Great Britain, we discussed here - [link]

So apart from celebrating Easter, calving cattle, TB testing cattle and generally minding our own businesses, some of our contributors have also been wading through Natural England's new offers of cash for the preservation of the farmed Environment. Or their idea of what a farmed environment should look like.

Previously these grants have been in the form of hedge and bank management, buffer strips and beetle banks. But the new Mid Tier syllabus for 2017 - [link] , given NE's status as cull master, contains a rather contradictory option we thought. An add on option for capital grants, contains the intriguing title 'FG 14 - Badger Gate - [link] and a description of the hoops through which to jump to get £135 for constructing such a device within an agreed plan, and up to £200 annually thereafter to maintain each one.


Badger tracks such as the one through grassland on the right, have to be studied, photographed and mapped. Then a specially designed gate flap installed in any new fence line, with no sharp edges on which they may hurt themselves.

Annual maintenance is carried out, together with detailed records of the event.




Sadly it cannot be used in an existing fence line, only in new fences supported by Countryside Stewardship, and curiously, not into areas where wetland birds nest. Which is strange as the published mantra is that badger's diets are made up of earthworms and grubs.
 
But a trail of peanuts and a trap the other side, could be a useful addition, could it not? And possibly take this element of 'contradiction' out of Natural England's role of badger guardian.


Thursday, April 06, 2017

April 1st - new cattle meaures.

Following Consultations - [link] informing the cattle industry what it proposed to do, Defra introduced the first of its new proposals intended to kill more cattle, on All Fools Day 2017. We expect others will follow shortly.
 As expected, more extreme cattle measures pile on to extra restrictions on licensed movements into already restricted herds. Inconclusive reactors in particular, come in for special attention. And the use of gamma Ifn, a blood test which offers broad spectrum sensitivity to many bacteria other than m.bovis, is to be more widespread in the High Risk Area, and in cull areas after their first two years.

 Meanwhile incidence of zTuberculosis in the Edge area and the apparently Low risk area, increases.

 Details can be found on the Defra operated Tb hub - [link]
 
 Other than a few throw away mentions of 'bio-security' aimed at preventing cattle contact with infected badgers, we see no mention of any meaningful action on curbing the spread of zoonotic tuberculosis through this maintenance reservoir of disease whatsoever. This mind set of rubbish testing and a reservoir of disease in cattle, filters right down from the top end of Defra. And like their predecessors four decades, ago they are determined to stamp it out. But inevitably, as those predecessors found, - [link] unless the disease is eradicated in free ranging, over populated, super protected wildlife, an even bigger heap of dead cattle will make no difference to disease incidence at all.

But trust in and co operation with the Ministry responsible, already low, will disappear completely.

 This current Defra mindset is also contradicted by scientists working for Defra. Following a conference in 2014, reported by author Richard Gard in Vet. Practice - [link] the following observations were made by Dr. Noel Smith, whose painstaking work compiling a zTB genotype database was discussed:
Today, the various genotypes have a specific home-range. Some 95% of bTB breakdowns are in the home-range or within 50km of it and 97% of genotypes have a home-range. Dr Smith indicated that the spoligotype identified from a bovine slaughtered for bTB indicates whether the animal has been transferred out of the M. bovis home-range.
Dr Smith commented that:
“The observed geographical clustering of M. bovis genotypes is incompatible with a cattle-only transmission model for bTB in GB, or cattle-movement patterns. The geographical localisation of bTB home-range suggests a local, relatively static environmental (wildlife) reservoir of the bacterium”.
Perhaps Defra should talk to its own staff, or those of its more reliable agencies, more often.

Friday, March 24, 2017

New, old , new, old.

We have remarked before, that with TB non control, the more things appear to change, the more they remain the same. And so it seems with the introduction last August of a new farmer and veterinary package - [link] from APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) which includes a map of TB breakdowns surrounding the one to whom it was posted.

Introduced for new TB breakdowns in the High Risk and Edge area last August, this is far more detailed than the badger Activist's Road map - [link] produced a couple of years ago after a change in the Data Protection statutes. We showed it in the posting below, with an 'X' marks the spot on Mr. Durose's farm.
Today, Farmers Guardian - [link] have more on this story.

The building blocks of outbreaks in the area surrounding his farm over the last four years, were as shocking as they were indefensible. Mr. Durose's herd had been clear of TB and on annual testing for decades.

In the leaflet, the new mapping system is described thus:
d). TB breakdown map - included on the final page is a map showing the geographical location of the holding and geographical data that is held by RPA (i.e. an outline of owned and/or rented land that is registered against that CPH with RPA). [snip - explains helpfully, that short term grazing may not be included.]

This map also indicates the location of other recent breakdowns within the area surrounding the holding of interest, along with details of any genotype(s) isolated from them (if available). This information can give an indication of the incidence, weight of disease and identified M.bovis genotype(s) present within the localised area around the breakdown under consideration. This can help in considering the risk of locally acquired versus imported disease.
But how 'new' is this idea?

 In 1972 a local vet at the Truro office began combining computer datasets with his curiosity into the origins of local TB outbreaks. All badger post mortems were logged, together with those from cattle as they became available. Spoligotypes and locations were painstakingly listed to show the depressingly familiar outwards spread we see today.

These maps are now part of a collection in the National Archive - [link]  who describe them thus:

The datasets record the incidence of tuberculosis among cattle in Great Britain from 1977 to 2002; and record of incidence of tuberculosis among badgers, as potential carriers of disease, from 1972 to 1998. The system links data showing incidence of TB to computer-generated maps; the original name of the database was 'TB Maps & Stats'.
On seeing Apha's 'new idea' Dr. Roger Sainsbury, whose painstaking work over more than two decades was for Ministerial internal consumption only, remarked wryly:
I wonder how many farmers will be shocked to see how much ‘Big Brother’ knows about their activities?
and he also noted that:
We always used to ask questions to get this information. It occurs to me that they (Defra / APHA) must be very sure that their info is 100 per cent.

As we now live in a society thriving on litigation, we hope it is too. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Carnage - again.

Four years on, and from the same area of the north Midlands comes another harrowing tale of carnage on our dairy farms.

This was the story we told then, of the 2013 'de-population' - [link] for Louis and Gillian Bothwell..

And the latest herd to feel the carnage of Defra's hammer are Guernsey cattle belonging to Mr. Durose who farmed  not a million miles from the Bothwells, and built a business producing A2 milk and cheese. - [link]



BBC Midlands Today has the story, on a short video which can be viewed here

 Mr. Durose now has no milking cattle, no income and a wish list from our Ministry before he can be licensed to restock. Most of it dealing with keeping badgers out of the way of his stock.

By order of the Secretary of State.


And this is a screen grab of the interactive TB map of the area around Mr. Durose's farm. more than 20 outbreaks surrounded his farm in 2016.


None are resolved in 2017, but more are added.


Below is a screen grab of the Defra map from the video clip.

Every yellow square  is a cattle farm which has been under restriction in the last four years.

His farm is surrounded.




Twenty years of non-eradication of zoonotic tuberculosis from its wildlife maintenance reservoir has done really well, hasn't it?


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Going to the dogs?

This week has seen another wake up call for the Ministry overseeing - or not - the eradication of zoonotic Tuberculosis, a Grade 3 pathogen affecting any mammal, from Great Britain. However, while Defra, APHA or whatever they call themselves today, continue to ignore the difference between a 'maintenance reservoir' of disease (badgers) and its spill over (other mammals), dead reactor cattle may build up, but the level of so called 'environmental' infection also increases.

 We have mentioned many times the under reporting of zTB in alpacas, and our last posting - [link] seems to have woken up the British Alpaca Society, if not non-members of that particular clan.

 This week the press has jumped on dogs as a 'carrier'. A pack of hounds belonging to the Kimblewick Hunt, and housed near Ayslebury - [link] have been badly infected with the disease, and as usual, media with large axes to grind are having a field day.
Leading the pack, is the Ecologist - [link] with a second swipe in that paper from the League Against Cruel Sports LACS - [link] written by Jordi Casamitjana who is Head of Policy and Research. Inevitably, the League  has decided that zTB is nothing to do with badgers at all, and it is hounds which are riddled with the disease, spreading it across our green and pleasant land.

 The fact that the author is anti hunting has nothing to do with the slant of piece of course. And musing quietly here, if dogs (which, unlike cats, are pretty resilient to zTB) are to be put under the spotlight, what about footpaths, and dog walkers, often with multiple charges and some operating a business 'exercising' packs?

The story was apparently started by a group calling themselves Hounds Off - [link] and this piece is informative rather than over sensationalist. But most media outlets carry the paragraph below which we read with a degree of irony:
“The implications of this outbreak are huge. We already know that restricting the movement of animals in the countryside is the only effective way of controlling bTB .... []
Yup. We restrict cattle. Nail 'em to the floor, and shoot anything that has a sniff of mycobacterium bovis, while offering the maintenance reservoir of this disease the right to roam. Very sensible.

 But we digress... This is a library picture from the Kimblewick hunt's website, on a happier occasion.





Meanwhile we too are interested in just how 25 - 40 hounds, depending on which website you look at, have contracted zTB. All at the same time. So we looked up the rules on 'passive surveillance' of the disease on the APHA website - [link] And it seems that any suspect lesions in fallen stock ending up in knackers' yards or hunt kennels must be notified to APHA - just as in abattoirs.

We also learned that only meat on the bone (flesh) from under thirty month old cattle should be fed to hounds, and any other bits of dubious provenance are stained and incinerated, with records kept of tag numbers, kg of waste and even ash from the incineration process.

So if the source of this sad outbreak, does turn out to be a break down in the fallen stock recovery, rather than any other source which can be established, the rules and regulations are already in place.

 If however, the source remains unclear, then a moribund badger riddled with zTB has been the downfall of more than one canine investigator. - [link]

And then there was this case - [link] of an severely infected mum, her daughter and a euthanized dog. The dog and the adult both having been confirmed with the same spoligotype of zTB as is found 'locally'.

What is becoming more apparent with every passing year of prevarication by Defra / APHA on this subject, is that through their animals, zoonotic Tuberculosis is now affecting different groups of people. And they may not be as accepting, compliant or pragmatic about their losses and restrictions as cattle farmers appear to be.

 Edit: If more information comes to light on the case of the hounds in Aylesbury, we will report in due course.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Alpaca TB - warning notice

We have been offered sight of a warning notice which has been circulated to BAS (British Alpaca Society ) members by email, but does not appear on their website. Yet.
 Perhaps it ought to.

Entitled BAS Advisory Notice, we reproduce it in full:
As some of you may be aware, there has been a confirmed bTB breakdown at a large herd and is currently under investigation by APHA . We are unable to name the herd as we have not yet had their permission to do so.

Whilst there are breakdowns or suspected breakdowns in existence several times a year in the camelid community, this particular breakdown is significant due to the size of the herd.

While the BAS has no more rights than individuals to access ‘personal’ information from government agencies due to data protection, we are active in assisting where we can and where the affected farm(s) permit. After another herd confirmed disease from alpacas purchased from what is now believed to be the ‘source’ holding, all farms that were known to have had contact were informed back in December 2016 and some have already been tested clear.

Due to the time it takes for APHA to prove disease, there has been a delay in APHA tracing and contacting farms that have moved or purchased alpacas from the infected source holding. Earlier this week, the BAS were contacted by APHA to help with the tracings. The BAS were able to confirm the three farms that had purchased registered alpacas from this ‘source’ holding in the last year and those farms have all been contacted by BAS representatives and are being contacted by APHA now.

We would urge our members to re acquaint themselves with our guidance regarding biosecurity and contact us if they have any concerns.

Please note for the reasons already stated we are unable to give out details unless we have the express permission of the party/parties concerned.

Clearly the BAS only have records of animals which have been registered. If you have purchased, moved or have bred with males from a holding where you think there may be cause for concern and have not yet been contacted by APHA, then we urge you to please contact the BAS or APHA and we can help guide you on the most appropriate course of action. It is imperative that any alpacas that have had dangerous contact with a herd that is known to have bTB, are thoroughly tested in accordance with the 2016 Camelid bTB Testing Scenario Document and Flow Chart which can be found on the BAS website.

With regard to shows, and in particular the upcoming National Show, our bio-security measures at shows have been approved by the BVCS and APHA and shown to be robust over many years; bio security is of paramount importance and the last thing any of us want is to knowingly allow alpacas to shows that have come from dangerous contacts.

We have been closely monitoring the situation and will continue to do so.

If you have any questions at all please contact us either through welfare@bas-uk.com, secretary@bas-uk.com or libby@grassroots.co.uk

Thank you for your time and attention in this important matter.

BAS Board


Now this outbreak must have been rumbling for some months (it takes APHA two months at least to confirm m.bovis by culture) and back tracing of pedigree animals is still ongoing. So the timing of this notice is startling, appearing just a couple of weeks before their National Show - [link] on 25th and 26th March.

NB. This picture was snapped at a previous 'National' alpaca show.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Brexit, UK exports and zoonotic Tuberculosis

One of the reasons given for leaving the clutches of the European Union was red tape. Happily, a bonfire of regulations will occur shortly. But this will be replaced for the farming community by another pile of Regulations - [link]


 Entitled REGULATION (EU) 2016/429 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL, this 208 page pdf contains over 300 Directives or 'Articles' concerning animal diseases, animal welfare and, with relevance to the UK, imports from third countries into the EU.

 It comes into force on 21st April 2021.




Article 9 (Annex IV on p. 177) is particularly relevant, as are Articles 229 / 300 which end with this gem:
"The Commission shall be empowered to adopt delegated acts in accordance with Article 264 concerning derogations from paragraph 2 of this Article, limiting the possibility for Member States to decide from which third countries and territories a specific species and category of animal, germinal product or product of animal origin may enter the Union, where necessary due to the risk posed by that specific species and category of animal, germinal product or product of animal origin."
That sounds suspiciously like a European Beef Ban to us. And we've been there before, have we not?

And the European Union is not without form on the thorny question of zTB . In 2004 when Russia - [link] was sabre rattling about quality of imports, zTB was used as a stick to beat three EU states. These were listed as Spain, the Republic of Ireland and the UK. To offset that threat, the EU drew up an export note, which, like the Beef Ban was a cascade of products ranging from milk powder, through gelatin to hides for tanning. In fact anything and everything - [link] that can be produced from a bovine animal. There is more clarification. [link]  on the this as answers to our questions were dragged from the Department of Trade.

And our apologies for the broken links in the first piece on Russia. As readers probably know, the Defra website is pretty rubbish at the best of times, and articles / notes and information are archived very quickly. In this case, the export document. But it exists. It is in someone's drawer and with herd TB incidence now over 10 per cent in the UK, for sure it will be used.

But if no one else is on the case, the FUW (Farmers Union of Wales) are up to speed. Yesterday's lead article on the Welsh lobby group's website, giving details of  Tb in Wales - [link]  and well written by FUW's policy director, Dr. Nick Fenwick gives a potted history of TB non policy by successive political leaders. It then points out the risks to exports from the current levels of TB in herds. Dr. Fenwick concludes:
The situation would be bad enough under normal circumstances, but with Brexit looming, competitors in other countries have one eye on our TB status, and how it might be used to their benefit – and our detriment – in trade negotiations. The clock is ticking.
And that point is made today by our sister site, with emphasis on exports of agricultural products and including several paragraphs from those new EU Regulations - [link] to which we refer above.

 Nick Fenwick is quite correct - for eradication of zTB and the security of our exports, the clock is ticking.

'Build that Wall'

News has been trickling in over the last couple of months of a cow in Canada, slaughtered in the USA and found to have lesions by the US meat inspectors. Cultures - [link] subsequently confirmed zoonotic tuberculosis.

We won't go into too much detail on this story, leaving readers to follow these links - [link] for in depth reporting from Alberta. And our grateful thanks to the cattle farmer who sent them.

 But one snippet caught our attention.
 zTB is practically unheard of in Alberta, and as such treated very seriously. Tracing is going back five years, and so far just 6 cattle have proved positive to zTB - all with the same strain of the disease.

After culture and spoligotyping (strain typing of the bacteria) it was found that the strain of zTB in these cows had not been found in Canada before, and was genetically very similar to a strain predominate in Central Mexico. The latest information from Alberta tells us that:
Genetic analysis has shown that the bovine TB organism from the infected cows is not the same as any strains detected in Canadian domestic livestock or wildlife or humans to date. All six currently confirmed positive cows have the same strain of TB. This strain of TB identified in these confirmed cows is closely related to a strain first found in cattle in Central Mexico in 1997.
Mexican herdsman with a cough? Just a thought.

And please, don't tell President Trump.

(No) Common Sense and COSHH


COSHH- or the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health - is a legal requirement of those employing people in any capacity, or the  letting of property - [link]
 It involves a detailed risk assessment to identify and remove, as far as possible, risks to health from hazardous substances.



With holiday lets, often gas appliances are the most likely suspects, with carbon monoxide emissions the 'hazardous substance' to be avoided at all costs. Dodgy wiring and badly maintained flues are all on the hit list for COSHH - [ link] But so are any 'substances known to be injurious to health'.

So the recent experience of a holidaymaker staying in a self catering cottage has shocked us.

 Upon entry to the property he noticed a stainless steel bowl and four cans of dog food.

"I don't have a dog" remarked the visitor.
"Oh, they're for the badgers" replied the hostess, glibly explaining that part of the 'countryside experience' she offered, was to encourage local badgers and for guests to view their 'dining table' - which doubled as the property's patio. 

Now the conversation became a bit heated, as her guest was a veterinary surgeon, well versed in zoonotic Tuberculosis and its primary wildlife hosts. So when the cottage owner proceeded to tell him, with all the arrogance of the totally stupid, that zTB had nothing at all to do with badgers, and it was a cattle disease, he was able to inform her with the degree of certainty that his qualifications bestowed, that badgers were the main wildlife host of zTuberculosis in this country.

 And for good measure he added that as her cottages were situated within one of the worst hot-spots for that disease in the country, not only was she putting her guests at risk, she was breaking every COSHH rule in the book, by doing so. And as such had laid herself wide open to litigation should any of her guests, contract zTuberculosis  from a badger bowl which she had provided, swilled in tepid water along with the family's breakfast dishes.

This is one of those occasions where words really do fail us.