For too long, farmers and vets have had very little opportunity to take control of eradicating TB. Now, we have a plan to change things, says James Russell, British Veterinary Association (BVA) junior vice president.
“What’s the hardest part of your job?”
This is a regular question posed to me by an interested public and potential future vets keen to see the warts of the career they are setting off into.
My reply in practice has always been the same.
I explain that the hardest part of my job as a farm vet is serving a TB restriction notice onto a farm.
To see the loss of any stock is tough.
To experience first-hand the loss of control felt by both the farmer as well as myself, the vet, at the point in time when the farm becomes another statistic in the nation’s TB story, was at times harrowing.
Very often it would involve a farm I had worked with closely for years, seeing generations of calves come through to production.
On occasion, they were clients who had transcended the strictest sense of the vet-client relationship and were personal friends.
In one particularly challenging instance, I had to serve a restriction notice on a farm the week before attending the farmer’s wedding.
I remember another time when a hardened hill farmer cried on my shoulder because reactors at the test which should have been the pre-sale test meant that his retirement would now not be going ahead, and he didn’t have any food for the winter.
For too long, TB policy has been done unto us, both vets and farmers.
BVA’s comprehensive new policy on bTB control, the development of which I’ve been a part of, positions farmers and vets alongside each other and emphasises the importance of their relationship in controlling this devastating disease.
We are calling for both parties to be empowered with greater autonomy to understand the processes of the disease on particular farms, through using novel testing techniques and genomics where possible and appropriate.
Timely, localised data is also crucial to allowing more evidence-based decisions to be taken on farm.
We’re recommending greater data sharing and contact between a named Government and named private vet so they can engage more fully and provide joined-up and long-term support to farmers.
Farmers who have undertaken to follow all the right practices in their farming approach must be rewarded for doing so.
This concept of earned recognition is not new to farming, and we can see that applying it to TB policy based on actions rather than focusing entirely on TB history will help to put the control of this disease firmly into the hands of the people who are best positioned to manage it – the farmer and their vet.
BVA is acutely aware of, and proud to be part of, the relationship between a farmer and their vet.
We now find ourselves, through the application of this policy, able to introduce a much greater range of ideas to Government, the profession and the broader industry in how we might capitalise on this relationship to help reduce the risk of disease on farm.
We all need a cattle industry working its way out of TB.
This policy sets out clearly our commitment to be alongside you every step of that route.
To read the policy position paper in full, click HERE.