It is with a great sadness that we must start a new era for the dairy with some disheartening (though not entirely unexpected) news. The results from our latest TB blood tests have returned three positives for the dairy herd. We’ve lost two Friesian cows – Maisie & Cornelia, and a 14 month old Angus calf. We were told to expect to see losses of between 10-20 % through positive reactors to the test, and in that respect the tests did not disappoint; the dairy herd now consists of just 10 cows who are of lactating age. Bovine Tuberculosis is an infectious respiratory disease spread predominantly though cattle to cattle contact. The Angus calf and the two Friesian cows had not so much as shared a barn or even been nose to nose in a field for the entirety of the calf’s 14 month life, so quite why these three tested positive remains a mystery. But they’re together now and isolated away from the rest of the herd. Soon they will be transported off the farm and as long as no conclusive evidence of TB can be found once they’re culled, their meat will enter the food chain (though not sold by us.)
This is the third time in the dairy’s 15 year history that the cows have been required to give blood tests and this is the third time we’ve lost cows suspected of having TB…and it doesn’t get any easier. The type of tests we’ve just gone through are expensive and the government doesn’t like to pay for them too often, so hopefully we will return to the less obtrusive skin testing regime for the next few years. It is worth mentioning that there is a vaccine for Bovine Tuberculosis, but to use it in this country would be to admit to the world that we have a TB problem. As we in the UK eliminate all cattle suspected of having TB, we are classed as a TB free country, and this is solely done to protect meat and dairy exports. To start using a vaccine would also mean the whole testing system would be completely upended, as the tests would not be able to differentiate between cows that have been vaccinated and cows that are suspected of having the disease. We will be compensated for the loss of these cattle by the government (as do all farms that lose cattle this way). But are the financial implications for the taxpayer really worth all this to protect Britain’s “TB free” status for the sake of exports? Surely it’s time for a rethink on the country’s handling of the TB crisis and its stance on vaccinations.
In other news, Leah calved a charming Ayrshire daughter this month, which means we’re accumulating quite a good band of Ayrshire replacements for the future, though none of them are old enough yet to replace Maisie and Cornelia. February sure was a cold one and we’ve had to deal with issues of water troughs freezing over, yoghurts not setting and cows producing less milk than expected as they use more of the calories they gain from their food to keep themselves warm and get through the bitterly cold nights. Let’s hope we get some warm weather soon, as the sooner we can get the girls back outside and grazing fresh pasture the better. We’ve done the maths and 10 cows with 350 customers (plus several more on a waiting list) does not add up. We urgently need to buy more cows, but finding the right organic cows for sale is not easy, and finding organic Ayrshires is like gold dust!
Sadly we may not be able to allow any increases to existing dairy orders for quite some time until we can increase our numbers, and making ice cream is but a pipe dream at the moment. But we do have plenty of frozen beef and veal available and some Bresaola coming in on the not too distant horizon. Please click on the link below for the meat options.