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24 Oct 2019
A new approach to disease control on a dairy farm in Devon – taking out infective cows and minimising exposure to slurry – has seen the herd attain TB-free status after six years of persistent breakdowns. The farm in question is Gatcombe Farm, run by Robert and Thomas Reed.
This chimed with observations made by Dr May and his team from the Save Me Trust following visits they had made to other farms in TB hotspot areas. They have been involved in a five-year project overseen by Dick Sibley of West Ridge Veterinary Practice, Tiverton, in partnership with Queen guitarist and animal rights supporter Brian May.
“We noticed a gathering number of clues,” Dr May told Farmers Weekly. “We noticed on one farm that the cows were paddling around in a lot of their own excrement. We asked, naively, how come this is not important, when you are worried about a tiny amount of excrement from a badger? They said, ‘Well, it’s just not important. It’s the badgers that are doing it’.”
“We also witnessed the skin test and saw how hit-and-miss it was, and we noticed the amount of stress that was involved. The farmer is obviously massively stressed, because his whole livelihood is threatened. This stress transmits to the animals, which were defecating the whole way through and looking panicked. So, by the end of the skin test they were literally paddling around ankle-deep in cow poo. This gave us a bad feeling and made us ask questions.”