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In your field: Thomas Carrick - 'Vaccination for Covid-19 will take place on an agricultural scale'

As spring rolls on, so does the dry weather. And, while this has been great for lambing, the flush of grass we usually get in the back half of May which allows us to turn the cattle out won’t be happening without a little wet weather; a statement I would not have imagined saying only a couple of months ago.

Of course, lambing is only half of the job because now they need looking after. Keeping lots of sheep healthy and growing is what we do, but we take for granted all the tools, such as vaccines and wormers, that we utilise.

 

Most of our lambs have had their first round of clostridium vaccine and also a scratch for orf.

 

Vaccination plays a massive role and the list of diseases we protect our livestock against grows all the time.

 

Currently on our farm we vaccinate against 12 species of bacteria and three species of virus; a fact which is rarely considered when so much is just routine work.

 

We rely on vaccines to make our businesses viable, as they allow us to do more without the worry of the main infectious threats. We owe a massive debt of gratitude to research organisations, such as Moredun, which have pioneered so much in this field.

 

They, like farmers, have been used to getting looked after by the EU, but all this will change and future financial support for research is likely to be less forthcoming from a UK government.

 

We are so used to having vaccines at our disposal that it’s an immediate reaction to demand one as soon as a novel disease appears.

 

Bluetongue in 2007 created a panic among livestock keepers, but then, after persuading drugs companies to invest in the manufacture of a new vaccine, we decided against buying it and vaccination rates are still low, even though the threat is present in France.


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Some diseases would, however, attract a much higher uptake of vaccination. TB has not only caused strife and economic disaster for so many UK farmers, but it continues to be the leading cause of human deaths due to infectious disease in the world.

 

It is estimated up to a quarter of the entire world population is infected with TB and are, therefore, at risk of developing the disease. The fact bovine TB can also cause TB in humans is a serious public health issue.

 

Availability of the BCG vaccine for cattle would be welcome news and, thanks to recent improvements to the diagnostic skin test so that vaccinated and infected cattle can be distinguished, we are one step closer.

 

Use of the vaccine and improved diagnosis over the current flawed skin test would see the current situation improve immensely. With health and welfare of our animals central to the new agricultural policy, I can’t think of anything more deserving of Government resources than a change of tack in the fight against TB.

 

However, one thing that will be happening on an agricultural scale in relation to Covid-19 is vaccination. It is the only way out.

 

I have visions of collie dogs herding people into long narrow alleyways, before being told to stand still while they get 2ml under the skin.

 

The trouble is that I can think of only very few administrators I would trust and many that I wouldn’t.

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