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In Your Field: Phil Latham - 'The TB testing system is a waste of tax payers’ money'

Phil farms 385ha (950 acres) in Cheshire, split between the family farm on Lord Cholmondeley’s estate and Organsdale Farm near Tarporley.

 

He milks 300 cows, mainly pedigree Brown Swiss, as well as diversifying into business units and an equestrian facility. He is also a Nuffield Scholar.

There are times when things just pile up and you feel like shouting at the sky.

 

It is raining and, quite frankly, I have had enough of it. After days of trying to be cheerful standing outside with our team trying to prepare the ground and set up for our horse trials, my optimism is wearing thin, my pants are invariably wet and I am developing webbed feet or suffering from chronic athlete’s foot.

 

It started raining after our September horse trials and it never seems to have let up, so the ground only needs a little additional moisture for there to be wheel marks and a mess. We will have to start sun dances in earnest and hope the weather gods are watching. Our event runs from April 20-22 for those with wellies.

 

Forage supplies are running out. We have just enough haylage to keep our livery clients on-site happy until the next cut, but silage stocks are miserably small and we will be turning out if grass is ready or not.

 

To add to the burden of work, we are also fitting in gamma testing at both farms for TB. What an absolute farce the system is. We have had to apply for a temporary land association from APHA.

 

This would normally not be too hard, but APHA cannot access my rural land registry maps on gov.uk, so the 99 land parcels need to be submitted separately and questions about splitting fields into horse paddocks delay the paperwork.

 

What nonsense that two Government departments cannot communicate effectively. APHA works with CPH numbers, while the Rural Payment Agency focuses on SBI numbers, so there seems to be no consensus on the hierarchy of the business information and I feel it is all a bit of a mess.

 

I have a date for my next short interval test, but as my gamma has been six weeks after my last test, it is unlikely the test will count for anything, as any gamma positives will reset the clock.

 

The delay in gamma testing is a function of the lack of lab space and the costs imposed, according to the people I have spoken to, by XL Vets on APHA if bloods are done concurrently because of the impact on vet time skin testing.

 

So to save money, APHA has decoupled blood testing from skin testing, so the system wastes tax payers’ money and farmers’ time in performing short interval tests which are of no benefit.


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