By Don Wise


It is a fact that the country as a whole is in no better position as far as TB in the national herd is concerned, than it was in 1938 when the scheme started. Ireland is rife with Bovine TB. I believe Irish store cattle are still being exported into the West Country. For many years young store cattle destined for the beef market were not TB tested, thus making the West Country a hot bed for TB.



The Test for TB in Cattle



In order to check whether an animal has Bovine TB or not is quite simple. The animal being checked is normally secured in a cattle crush and identified by its ear tag. The original method for this was to punch an indelible number in the animal's ear which was impossible to alter. Identification was guaranteed for life.



The animal’s neck skin is pinched up and the thickness is measured with callipers, usually after clipping a small area of hair away. Two sites are chosen, two to three inches apart, then two test vaccines are used. One carries an unknown strain of dead Bovine TB and the other carries dead Avian TB. The animals have the sites of injected vaccine a few days later and the size of the bumps in the skin are calibrated again. If the bumps are of equal size, the animal is considered free of Bovine TB.



In the beginning, cattle in the scheme were all tested on a regular basis with accurate registers of cattle movement. Dairy cattle today are kept confined in cow kennels and yards, where they are expected to stand in slurry deep inches for hours on end. The proof of this was shown on BBC Television. Many herds are being fed on very poor rations. Stress and the shoddy husbandry conditions are all contributing to the falling standards of hygiene, health and herd breakdowns.



One more important element may have some bearing on the situation. Since AI was introduced, the gene bank has probably been weakened to such an extent that much of the dairy stock is vulnerable to many diseases.



Unfortunately badgers come into the equation:



·         They are easily recognisable, their habits are constant, they have a static base or home (sett), and having a sweet tooth, badgers are easily caught. 


·         The mole or European badger species have, like many other species of wildlife, about 0.37 percent of the population suffering from Bovine TB. Foxes, deers, rats, moles, and grey squirrels are all capable of transferring not only the TB bacteria, but also many other diseases in various ways. The bacteria can be moved in its dormant state, in fouled straw that has dried out.


·         Badgers are an obvious easy target with a long history of superstition. In the 'The History of Agriculture', there is a well-written account of how the men of Somerset frequently placed 'hope pokes' (special sacks used to compress dried hops) in the entrances of badger setts at the turn of last century. When the badgers returned to their setts, they were trapped in the sacks and taken back to the village, soaked or dipped in tar then set on fire with village dogs chasing the burning badgers back to the woods.


·         At this present time, the serious issue is there being more than 29 strains of Bovine TB. Why have we not seen any proof that the cattle on a particular farm suffering from an out break of TB, have the same strain as the badgers living on that holding? It is a solid fact that there are more than 29 different identifiable strains of the bacteria around.


·         There are several different routes the TB bacteria can take, which will in turn affect animals' health. All routes of infection are obvious post mortem, where information discovered often shows the likely source of infection. Cattle are able to snort sputum up to 20-25 metres, easily affecting cattle the other side of a single fence. Skin contact is another way TB is spread. The third common cause is eating contaminated food. Often cattle troughs are not cleaned out on a regular basis, leaving sour traces of contaminated food in communal troughs. Cows are often put out to graze on fields treated with slurry before all the diseases are killed by frost and other weather conditions. Cattle husbandry needs serious improvements.



In conclusion, I have the personal knowledge and experiences of all the details and facts written in this collection of documents enclosed. I will be happy to answer any queries. I fear it is not in the interest of D.E.F.R.A. Vets to divulge the real facts. There still is no evidence that badgers spread Bovine TB to cattle. The connections would have been made after all this time using the identified strain on each occasion. I have other concerns regarding badgers and Bovine T.B. but they are not connected with banning badger culling.