Gloucestershire farmer loses best cow to TB
Ben Carter must have qualified as one of Britain's youngest young farmers when he first went into business, renting just five acres to run a flock of sheep on when he was only ten years old.
That was 11 years ago. Now he rents 200 acres and a cottage, where he lives with his partner, Sarah Brimacombe, 29, and from where they run an outstanding herd of 30 pedigree Gloucester cattle.
But rare breed animals are as vulnerable as any other when it comes to tuberculosis (TB) – which has just claimed the life of Ben's best cow.
She showed up as a reactor when tested last week and has now been slaughtered.
It was the first case on Ben's farm near Nympsfield, in Gloucestershire.
But although he will be compensated for his loss the farm's first-ever suspected case of TB has left a huge problem in its wake – the cow's five-month-old calf.
"She's suddenly lost her mother, she will not drink out of a bucket and she will have to go on to cake – but she will never develop properly," said Mr Carter.
"And we won't get any compensation for the loss we are going to suffer as a result. It's just criminal."
Mr Carter's farm stands next to the Woodchester Badger Research Station where for more than 30 years experts have been looking into badger behaviour – though so far without coming up with any significant contribution to the battle to control TB, a fight which will now see thousands of badgers slaughtered in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset to see how effective free shooting can be as a means of controlling the animals' estimated two million population.
The anti-cull campaign has been well-orchestrated and certainly has made far more impact than anything the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has been able to do to justify a measure it has wholeheartedly backed.
But for Mr Carter, culling badgers offers the only hope of bringing an uncontrollable situation to an end.
"We are really at the mercy of the disease at the moment – and the public just doesn't understand the problems that can arise, like our calf," he said.
"Apparently as far as they are concerned it's fine to go on shooting tens of thousands of cattle every year but not fine to shoot a single badger, even though badgers are clearly accepted now as the cause of the problem.
"If taxpayers realised how many millions are being spent partly compensating farmers for their losses and that it costs them £3,000 for every TB test, then they might be more inclined to support some kind of action to do something about the problem.
"But while so many of them understand so little about the realities of TB you can see how easy it is to whip up support for the badgers."