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No Quick Fix as TB Dominates Beef Expo 2012

25 May 2012

UK - With economic uncertainty dominating the political agenda and a bovine TB vaccine several years away, more radical action by farmers may be needed to eradicate the disease from UK shores, delegates to this week’s Beef Expo, Three Counties Showground, Malvern, heard.

Speaking in the hugely popular Question Time session, a guest panel including Poul Christensen, Chairman of Natural England, Mike Gooding of farming and research body FAI Farms, Countryfile’s Adam Henson and Stuart Roberts of beef processor ABP, agreed a collaborative approach to tackling the disease – set to cost the UK taxpayer an estimated £100m a year – was needed.

“You cannot tackle this disease by picking off one component at a time – whether that be farm livestock or wildlife – you need a strategy to eradicate the disease, not just tinker with it,” said Stuart Roberts, who sits on the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England. “It will take every tool in the toolbox.”

Progress towards vaccination of cattle was commonly supported, despite concern over the possible impact on exports. But progress would not come quick and would be influenced on wider political issues, suggested Mike Gooding. “If the economy collapses in Greece, political focus will not be on a TB vaccine.

“Maybe we as an industry need to think how research (in to a vaccine for cattle) is funded,” he went on to say, suggesting that with the rise in the price paid for prime cattle, perhaps producers should consider contributing to funding for vaccine research.

While that suggestion may have sat uncomfortably with some delegates, there was wider acceptance and appreciation for BBC Countryfile Adam Henson’s reporting on how the disease had affected his Cotswold farm.

Mr Henson stressed the disease had to be portrayed wider than its direct impact on cattle calling it a ‘disease of the countryside’. “We mustn’t go to war over bovine TB but must work together.”

Although emotions run high on both sides over possible control measures, the disease must not be allowed to dominate the wider debate on animal health issues, he said.

“It must not be allowed to overshadow other important diseases, such as Johne’s, that also pose a threat,” he warned.

Poul Christensen told delegates Natural England, as the licensing body for current badger control measures, would do all it was asked by Government to tackle the disease.

“That is as much as I can say with a judicial review underway,” he said, but added from a personal view, as a dairy farmer from Oxfordshire who had experienced TB in his own cattle, that the disease needed tackling “one way or another”.

Other questions raised by delegates included rising rents, whether the UK beef industry was a world player, and a look at collaborative ventures in farming.

Beef Expo is organised by the National Beef Association, with Lloyds TSB Agriculture as major sponsor.

TheCattleSite News Desk



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