I have decided to allocate time in this opinion piece to bovine TB – specifically residual disease.
Wildlife is clearly a huge issue. We know that bTB passes from badger to cattle and vice versa.
But cattle to cattle transmission is even worse, so if the disease does get into your herd how do you stop it spreading?
I recall a chilling conversation with a vet a few years ago discussing my own bTB breakdown, and his words to me were ‘bTB is so contagious, once you get it in your herd it can be complicated to get it out’.
The science tells us that if the skin test finds a positive reading there is only 1 in 5,000 chance this is a false positive, so despite various opinions about the skin test, it rarely lies about positives.
However, where the skin test lets itself down is it cannot always find bTB, which is good at hiding.
It can fool the test and infected animals can be left behind.
Too often we hear about bTB breakdowns where a herd goes clear, but then a year or two later succumbs once more.
So how much of this is new infection, and how much is coming from residual infection that was never completely eradicated?
The residual infection aspect seems to get less airtime than new infection, but having personally felt the financial and emotional hit from bTB, I feel we ignore this at our peril.
So I have been looking into the new world of private testing – in this case the Enferplex Bovine TB antibody test.
I have had a sense of humour failure over relying on a Government-only test.
I do not want another breakdown. I cannot afford it and cannot face it.
I want to do what it takes to find any residual disease the skin test has not, then manage it out in a sustainable manner, and never have the Animal and Plant Health Agency darken my door again.
It turns out private testing is not that simple (what a surprise).
Farmers cannot just go around looking for the disease like they do for Johnes or BVD.
If you do, you face consequences that are financially too big to bear.
So for now I am playing Russian roulette. I have to sit tight and ride the rollercoaster with everyone else, dreading testing days, crossing my fingers, holding my breath and telling myself how stupid this is.