TB continues to dominate our thoughts. But we didn’t do enough thinking did we. That’s because we received a hefty penalty off our last milk cheque for not amending our milk forecast.
When I phoned up I was told I should have told them we were affected by TB, and I hadn’t, had I. If they didn’t know how could they do anything about it? Which I suppose is fair enough, but when we lost 14 cattle in one go, it is so traumatic that your milk production forecast is one of the last things on your mind.
You worry about being able to restock, which isn’t a given. You worry about how many you will lose at the next 60-day test. And you worry about where you will put all those calves. And while you are doing all this worrying, the price of the cows and heifers you would like to buy keeps going up. Our last 60-day test was at the end of November and we had three more reactors.
They were all youngish cattle and they all had lesions. Having lost 14 at the previous test, losing another three was as good a result as we could realistically expect. How your perspective changes! Who would have ever thought having three reactors would be seen as a reasonable result? There is a shred of comfort to be had as well, knowing that these three reactors actually had TB. That’s what the testing regime is all about, removing animals that have TB.
It’s all a lot worse if animals are removed and no trace of TB is found at slaughter. I don’t pretend to understand all the detail and all the implications, but there remains a ‘grey’ area about just how efficient a testing procedure is if it hasn’t changed for 50 years or so. A local vet is quoted (often in the pub) that it isn’t a question of if you will get TB, it’s just a question of when.
With that sort of scenario of inevitability as a background the big unanswered questions are how long before you go clear and, if you go clear, how long will it be before you are re-infected? Most cattle farmers are of the opinion that if they were allowed to address the badger issue themselves they could clear the problem considerably quicker that the Government’s 25-year timetable.
But there’s little chance of that as long as most of the electorate are anti badger cull. It has always intrigued me that some people can only see an issue one way and that others see it completely differently.
There have been examples of this in 2016! I look on badger websites although I admit I don’t have any special IT skills. It’s just that as your grandchildren get older they not only empty your pockets they help you along the IT road. They help you because they know that if they do, they can empty your pockets again. “Hey Tom, what do I do now?” usually costs me £20. As long as these websites hold out hope to the anti-cull majority we will be stuck where we are.
One website suggests vaccination is a benign and effective solution, and you can’t blame ‘people’ if they believe what they say. They ‘prove’ their point by quoting the Welsh experience as a success. But vaccination is suspended in Wales, it’s been suspended since December 2015, and the TB incidence in Wales is up 36%. How do we devise a way of telling people that?
I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Eve celebrations. But I go to the pub every Saturday night and if it’s New Year’s Eve on Saturday night, it’s hardly my fault, is it? I don’t drink much because of driving. I have a couple of bottles of tonic water, two glasses of rose, and usually finish off with a pot of tea, which when they are busy with last orders really irritates them.
I usually ask for some cucumber sandwiches as well, but so far they’ve not turned up. If you happen to be the sort of person who enjoys getting up in the night to go to the loo, then tonic water is the drink for you.
I go to the pub about nine o’clock. It’s a very familiar scene. Two deep at the bar are tractor drivers and lorry drivers. They are talking about gearboxes and tyres, and they are all talking at the same time and they keep mentioning ‘add blue’, which is, I think, one of those drinks they have as shots. I don’t understand any of what they are talking about, so as usual I go and sit with their wives and girlfriends.
They too often talk about things I don’t understand, but it’s definitely much more interesting. One of them produces a pack of cards and we spend a very pleasant couple of hours playing something called Old Maid. But as midnight approaches you need to have your wits about you. In 10 minutes a kissing frenzy will break out.
You need to start weighing things up as you need to work out how many you would prefer not to. Tonight is ok and there’s nothing to avoid. Observation over the years has taught me that while some men seek out every female in the room for a kiss they usually only get a proffered cheek, while if you stay in your seat and let them come to you, you get full lips.
At five to 12 I go to the loo and after that I go out to the car park and off home. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything!