An award-winning dairy farm on the outskirts of Truro has told of “heartbreak” after 36 cattle had to be slaughtered following a bovine tuberculosis (TB) outbreak.
Tragically, two of the cows were in calf when they failed the routine TB testing at Nansmerrow Farm in Tresillian recently.
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Although experienced farmer Paul George managed to induce labour in the cows four weeks early and save the calves, the tiny animals have now been left orphaned with their mothers having to be shot on the same afternoon as giving birth.
The farmer, who manages a herd of 450 dairy cattle on the huge 520-acre site was named as Dairy Farmer of the Year and overall Farmer of the Year at the Cornwall Farm Business Awards last year.
He said that the spread of TB is “destroying livelihoods” and has called on the Government to implement further measures to protect farms in Cornwall and across the country.
Award-winning dairy farmer Paul George is calling for the government to step up action to help stop the spread of bovine TB
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Mr George said: “We as farmers work diligently to ensure the welfare of our herds, we are hugely proactive in the prevention and control of every disease and ailment that can affect our animals, apart from one.
“Bovine TB is indiscriminate, it’s the one disease that is completely out of our control and is destroying livelihoods as the compensation we are receiving for cows that have to be destroyed as a result is woefully inadequate in some cases, where it can be around 50% of the true value.
“In Wales farmers are compensated at the full market value for their cattle, which is determined by an independent valuer. It’s a shame this system is no longer applied in England.”
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But Mr George said that it is not just the financial loss that farmers face when bovine TB hits, it also has an emotional impact that many people do not get to see.
He added: “Dairy and beef farmers invest vast amounts of their time, care and attention into the wellbeing of their animals throughout their life and many have invested countless years, in some cases generations, improving the quality and standard of their cattle.
“To see all of that hard work being undone and, in some cases, completely wiped out is completely heartbreaking.
“I’ve just had to witness two of my heifers having to be shot in front of me on the farm. They were less than a month away from calving, hence deemed unsuitable to be taken to the slaughterhouse to be destroyed along with my other 34 cows suspected as being infected with TB.
“As soon as a cow fails the testing it has to be isolated until DEFRA can come to collect it to be slaughtered.
“It’s awful and a lot of people don’t understand. It’s not just the money, we care about our animals, most of us look after our cattle better than we do ourselves.”
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Mr George is now calling on the government for fairer compensation for farmers hit by the disease, as well as tougher action to be taken to put an end to bovine TB altogether.
“From our side of the fence we’re doing all we can to control disease, we need the government to step up and control the wildlife population that also carries bovine TB to give us a fighting chance of putting a stop to this,” added Mr George.
“In post-Brexit Britain having our own, efficient food production industry is going to be even more important and we need to get this resolved. Surely, in the long-term, sorting this out once and for all will be the best solution, including for the tax-payers pocket as well.”
Mr George said that a lot of people aren’t aware what a big problem bovine TB has become in Cornwall and the rest of the UK.
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He added: “Animal rights protestors get up in arms if there is a suggested badger cull, but there are hundreds of thousands of cows slaughtered every single year because of TB.
“Those cows are living animals and they supply us with the milk for our cereal, the butter on our tables, and that loss is not being addressed.
“I’m not saying everyone should go out and shoot all the badgers, I have nothing against badgers, lot of farmers don’t.
“But something does need to be done, on both sides of the fence, to step up the protection and stop this awful disease.”
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Source: Cornwall Live