TB Free England

Bovine TB (bTB) devastates thousands of farming family businesses every year and tens of thousands of cattle are culled annually in England because of it. Find out more about bTB, its impact, and why we must use all available options to make England TB free.

 Cattle culled in England because of bovine TB since January 1 2008

Family's 'devastating' year dealing with bTB

A Wiltshire farmer has spoken about his family’s ‘devastating’ year dealing with bovine TB which saw the farm business lose more than 200 cattle to the disease and has left them facing the prospect of being more than £400,000 worse off this year.

Keith Withers, who has around 600 milking cows and around 1,000 youngstock on his family farm, said: “We are a family dairy farm which has been shut up with bTB for most of the past 14 years. We have been a closed herd for the last ten years and since 2009 we have been continually shut down with bTB.

“The last year has been devastating. At our last 60-day TB test we lost 62 cattle; in the test prior to that we lost 78; and in the two tests prior to that we lost another 67 animals. We’ve lost 230 animals in the last 12 months.

“It is soul destroying to see animals that look so healthy being condemned and to have a business that has been built up over many years of hard work and dedication being put into jeopardy because of things out of our control. It is hard to bear.

“We had been a closed herd for ten years, which means we haven’t brought any cattle in from outside, but because of the crippling numbers of cows being taken we probably have no option other than to buy in. We’ve been told that we can do this, but only once and the animals need to be isolated until the whole herd has had two clear tests. We have been shut down for 12 years so we’re not hopeful that will happen soon.

“Our milk sales are now down £1,500 a day. This, combined with the labour costs involved in testing every 60 days, and the fact we can only sell our youngstock to other TB restricted herds at below market prices, means this year will cost us more than £400,000 in lost milk earnings and other costs.

“Our cattle have no contact with any neighbouring cattle and we don’t share equipment with any other farms. Most of the 78 cows that tested positive for bTB in November had just calved or were close to calving. They had been in two fields near a wood with a badger sett. While we can avoid using these fields for cows that are calving in future, we cannot avoid grazing them through the whole grazing season because we need the whole farm to fulfil our grazing needs. If we were to avoid all fields on the farm adjoining badger setts we wouldn’t be able to graze half of our farm.

“We are delighted that in areas where the cull has been happening farmers who have previously been shut down through TB for years are now reporting going clear of the disease. But in areas like this we need support and real action now so that something is done to deal with the wildlife issues that are so devastatingly affecting our animals.

“If this isn’t possible then the Government needs to look at compensation for loss of earnings and to ensure that compensation for any animal that is slaughtered because of bTB is in line with market value prices. Otherwise businesses like ours, which are powerless to stop this disease, will continue to suffer.

“If things are allowed to carry on as they are bTB will not only have killed our cows – it will have killed our business and the businesses of many like us.”