Why a badger cull won't work by herdsman Steve Jones
STEVE Jones, who has 35 years of experience managing cattle, he now lives in The Pludds:
"I LIVE in the beautiful Forest of Dean overlooking the Wye Valley. I am right in the heart of the pilot badger cull zone.
"I do not believe that a badger cull will have any effect on the incidence rate of bovine TB; other than it could make it a lot worse. I have worked in the organic livestock industry as well as commercial dairying in the UK and around the globe, in locations as diverse as Scandinavia and Saudi Arabia.
"Some of the herds I have managed have been the most highly productive and disease-resistant in the world. Good sound animal husbandry coupled with bio-security is the forerunner to success to stifle disease. I have never had a bTB outbreak on any of the herds under my control.
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"Why are so many cows reacting positive to bTB? Tuberculosis in humans is a disease of poverty. Likewise bTB is a disease of impoverishment, brought about, in the main, by the low price a farmer receives for the end product, milk or meat. The dairy sector is the most affected by this as the cost of production is barely covered by the price paid by supermarkets and milk processors.
"The knock-on effect is sub-standard care for the animals. This degradation of the milk price has a direct correlation to the advance of bTB.
"Our national herd has a shameful 22 per cent incidence of lameness. Animals suffering from that or mastitis are more likely to suffer from other infections such as bTB.
"Once a farm becomes cash- strapped, hoof care is often neglected and the cows outgrow their beds. Larger cows have insufficient room to lie down. Cows' stress levels increase and they become more infection prone. We need to consider disease resistance in our cattle by breeding cows that have a greater tolerance to infection.
"Should we be culling cows that show a tolerance to bTB and yet do not go on to develop the full-blown symptoms?
"If a farm falls under a bTB outbreak the situation becomes worse. Infected cows can spread the disease when they breathe or cough. The tuberculin bacterium has been found to exist in stagnant water. This begs the question of just which species of animal is infecting the other.
"Cattle water troughs are rarely, if ever, cleaned out. In the winter time when cattle are in the barns for several months the water troughs, once frequented by slobbering cows, become a water source for the eco system.
"They often have dead birds and rodents rotting in them, (they carry TB too). They become a drinking font for foxes, deer and badgers. This water is warmed by the spring sunshine and soon turns into a petri dish of life threatening infection. On one glorious spring day, the cows are turned out to grass; they are expected to drink this water and they do. There is probably not a more efficient way of spreading the tuberculin bacterium than this, except maybe than injecting TB direct into a lung.
"We need to put water troughs out of the reach of badgers, as much for their sake as for the cows."
Not all farmers agree with Mr Jones.
National Farmers' Union representative in Gloucestershire, Jan Rowe has defended badger culls.
"We know a well-done badger cull will work as there's a lot of evidence to back it up," he said.
"The Randomised Badger Culling Trial in 2000 clearly demonstrated a 30 to 40 per cent reduction in bovine TB which is still persisting.
"And the proposed cull area will be much bigger and the boundaries designed to be much stronger, such as motorways and rivers."
Mr Rowe added: "The spread of this disease is not down to poor animal husbandry.
"It doesn't matter how good your farming or what the economics are – it's not about how you farm, but where you farm. You'll only get this persistent recurrent TB where you have cattle living next to a wildlife reservoir of this disease, which happens in the south west.
"In the east of the country they can manage TB, purely because they don't have diseased badgers."