Call for farming industry to look at disease

Farmers discussed how to keep cows free from disease at the meeting
Farmers discussed how to keep cows free from disease at the meeting

Farmers have met to discuss the challenges faced with bovine tuberculosis.

Bovine TB is one of the biggest problems facing farmers with more than 35,000 cattle slaughtered annually because of the disease.

Robert Howe, of Broughton-based farm vet practice Lambert, Leonard & May, recently organised a meeting at Barton Grange Hotel, involving around 150 farmers and other guests to raise awareness about the dangers of bTB.

The infectious disease is seen as one of the biggest challenges facing the cattle farming industry today, particularly in the west and south west of England.

But Mr Howe and other agricultural experts have warned areas like Lancashire should remain on guard following recent bTB outbreaks, aiming to eradicate the disease from herds.

He said: “Having previously worked in Devon, where bTB is widespread, I am acutely aware of the luxurious, bTB-free position Lancashire farmers and vets currently enjoy.

“It would be tragic to allow bTB to take hold here.

“We have an opportunity now to keep it out if the whole industry can work together.”

Mr Howe is enlisting Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace to support his awareness campaign, and the Barton meeting led to agreement among attendees to minimise risks.

That involves a commitment to further discuss the problem with friends, colleagues and neighbours, and push a county-wide bTB discussion group.

As bTB arrives predominantly with infected cattle, it was also stressed that farmers should discuss private sales with vets beforehand, and limit buying in cattle - especially from endemic areas.

There was also a call to make feed stores wildlife-proof, ask auction staff to display better information about risks, and carry out post-movement testing for bought cattle.

That strategy was backed by Carl Padgett, a past president of the British Veterinary Association. He said: “We almost eradicated bTB in the UK by the mid-1970s, but then incidence started to rise again to the levels we have today.”