What will be the outcome of this very wet winter? - Veterinary Practice
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What will be the outcome of this very wet winter?

discusses the after-effects of a difficult season and looks at how increased co-operation between farmers and veterinary surgeons might be valuable in the fight against TB.

IF today you stand in a field that
should have been planted you will
start to sink. There is a split in my
left boot and I cannot walk across
fields without failing the wet sock

If you are limiting your activities to
working on concrete, in barns and
offices, just go for a wander across the
land. The general prediction is that the
corn will not be as high as
an elephant’s
eye this year
and so straw
will be short
and expensive
to buy.

fields have visible ponds that should
not be there. The floods have
deposited garden furniture and
footballs in unlikely places with fences
flattened by the force of the water.

The silage clamps and bale stacks
are getting depleted because of the
shortened grazing season before
winter housing last year. A tremendous
amount of individual farm variation,
of course, but although the grass
appears to be growing, the beneficial
impact of Dr Green will be delayed.

The questions…

Is an increase in mastitis, lameness and
infertility an inevitable outcome? What
can the veterinary surgeon do to help?
This is the question being asked about TB.

Various groups and
committees and consultations indicate
that the veterinary surgeon is the one
to work with the farmer to control this
disease. On the basis of eating an
elephant one mouthful at a time, the
current figures (October 2012) from
DEFRA may be helpful.

Seventy counties are listed on the
website for England, Wales and
Scotland; 24 of these are recorded
with no herds under TB restriction,
therefore 46 counties have herds with
current disease. A further 14 only have
one herd under restriction.

Those counties with 100 or more
TB restricted herds are:

Devon 916

Dyfed 631

Cornwall 461

Hereford & Worcester 448

Shropshire 321

Somerset 273

Staffordshire 271

Powys 258

Gloucestershire 249

Wiltshire 186

Dorset 153

Avon 141

Derby 128

Gwent 109

Cheshire 100

Each of the farmers with TB
positive herds will be the client of a veterinary practice. It is not accurate
enough to divide the number of herds
with the number of cattle practices
within a county but each practice can
easily identify the scale that applies to

In the hot-spot counties, the ratio
is about 20% of herds under
restriction. For a practice with 50
herds, a rough guess would be that
there are 10 herds within that practice
under restriction. Work out the correct
figure for your specific locality and
that will be the size of your elephant.

Knowing the scale is, of course,
only the start but it should be easy
enough to sort out which of the
restricted herds are beef and which are

There are just under 80,000 cattle
herds and around 11,000 of them are
milk producers, which gives a ratio of
seven beef herds to one dairy. So, the
practice with 20 restricted herds can
expect three of them to be dairy herds.

I don’t expect that this matches
your local situation but if you have
looked into it you may have identified
a worthwhile focus for attention. Stick
a pin in a local map to locate the
restricted dairy herd and work
outwards. Where are the other
restricted herds?

Exchanging information

Now life gets a little more difficult.
Although you can expect your client to
have other TB positive herds nearby,
they may not be your clients. Is it really
a problem to exchange information?

Can DEFRA share local information
because, if not, we have found a major
stumbling block to a local TB management control

Direct experience
indicates that many farmers
share their information
anyway and it would seem that
information exchange is one of the
roles of a veterinary surgeon if
diseases including BVD, leptospirosis
and Schmallenberg are to be thwarted.

If your practice has crossed the
first information obstruction and
completed the pins on the local map,
the next stage involves pen and paper
or the new technologies.

The location of the farm is not
necessarily the location of the disease.
Detail now becomes very important to
collate the TB results into ages of the
cattle and their location. This is why a
dairy herd is usually easier to work
with because the milking
cows inhabit a fairly
limited area for grazing.

Some maps
showing field boundaries can be
downloaded from local
councils that indicate
footpaths, one of the
benefits resulting from
the drive for
countryside access.
However, the farmer
may have an overview
map of the fields
utilised for the milking
herd and also where the
dry cows and
young-stock are located
for the summer.

With neighbouring
farmers in co-operation,
it is not uncommon to find that
specific areas seem to yield more TB.

The co-ordinator

Some vets and many farmers find it
difficult to pursue the value of farmer
co-operation, but experience shows
that although most farmers are
focused on their problems only, it is in
the role of co-ordinator that the vet
comes into his or her own.

Local farmers will co-operate with
their neighbours to fight disease if
supported by local vets. The opposite
is also probably true that if the
farmer’s own vet is not behind the
local management programme, failure
can be expected.

In some ways, where there are
many herds under restriction, or have
been, or expect to “go down” at the
next test, neighbourly co-operation is
likely to be more forthcoming. There
are, of course, isolated herds with no cattle neighbours.

Six counties only have two restricted herds (Cambridgeshire,
Norfolk, Dumfries, Wigtown, Nairn,
West Sussex) and one wonders how
difficult it is to eliminate the disease
with a low incidence.

What the statistics do not reveal is
whether the herds are having the odd
failure or multiple slaughterings. It is
often said that with TB it is
unacceptable to be prepared to live
with the disease, but that is a major
local policy decision.

The flooding is not only
responsible for a sodden mess but also able to spread disease.
With an environmental
organism such as M.
, it can be
anticipated that
infection will be spread
across the land, to be
ingested by grazing
cattle in the coming
weeks and months.
Knowing the disease
status of the land
becomes even more

There is also the
relevance of what is
underground. Damp,
wet, living conditions
with poor nutrition is
the classic
combination for an
increase in respiratory disease.

The incidence of TB in badgers is expected to continue to increase and
the results for November to March
are expected to show further hikes in
the cattle TB test failure statistics.

Developing veterinary practice
control starts with an accurate record
of the local disease. Introducing the
means to reduce the number and
frequency of TB failures follows full
surveillance, wildlife survey and risk

There is also worthwhile
information that could be of value
from the farmers whose herds are
not under restriction.
Even in the hot-spots, clear herds are
in the majority. It may be difficult for
veterinary practices to sell their TB
control services to clients with TB-
free cattle but it would be valuable to
identify local “clear-spots” as well as

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