30th Oct


TFA Media Release 17/30 – Single TB Breakdown Costs Tenant Farmer over £100,000

Single TB Breakdown Costs Tenant Farmer over £100,000

The Tenant Farmers Association has highlighted the significant financial cost incurred by cattle farmers when bovine TB strikes in their herds.

Mark Peters, a tenant farmer from the South East of England, has agreed to allow his experience to be shared to provide insight into the huge financial cost suffered by farmers when an animal disease outbreak occurs.

TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said “Although farmers receive some compensation towards the value of any animals that have to be slaughtered as a result of contracting bovine TB, in fact this represents a very small proportion of the total losses suffered by a farmer in these circumstances. The TFA has argued consistently that the consequential losses to the farm business far outweigh the compensation provided by Government for the value of the animals slaughtered. This case study shows how just one animal contracting bovine TB in a herd can have devastating financial consequences for the farm business”.

Bovine TB affects thousands of farm businesses and leads to the slaughter of approximately 30,000 cattle every year. Despite strict movement controls and surveillance regimes, bovine TB continues to spread to new areas of the country.

“The TFA believes that more action needs to be taken to control this disease given both the financial and emotional cost suffered by farmers whose herds are subjected to this terrible disease. Ultimately, a cattle vaccination must be found but this option remains only a distant possibility. While we wait for sufficient scientific developments to provide a vaccine, we need to use all the tools available to us which includes cattle movement controls, effective surveillance and dealing with all disease sources including infected wildlife,” said Mr Dunn.

Ref: MR 17/30
Date: 30 October 2017

Notes for Editors:

For further information contact George Dunn or TFA Communications and Events Coordinator, Harley Coles on 0118 930 6130.

The case study details are given below:

Dealing with a TB breakdown: The experience of Mark Peters of A R Peters & Son from Plashett Park Farm Ringmer East Sussex

Mark Peters is a tenant farmer near Lewes in East Sussex. His main holding is in the village of Ringmer and until are 10 years ago was subject to 4 yearly testing for bovine TB. The livestock side of his business is based mainly rearing ball calves from dairy herds in the current four-yearly testing areas of West Sussex, Surrey and Kent. The calves are collected at between one and three weeks old and our reared to around 200 kg before being moved on to a specialist finisher. Mark also has a breeding cattle herd built up from buying in British blue cross calves from TB free dairy herds which are reared on to become breeding, suckler cows. Since the summer of 2015 Mark has invested in the order of £220,000 in new livestock facilities to enable the business to cater for more livestock within a better arable rotation using more grass and clover. By summer 2017 the aim was the see calf production reach 40 animals per week and until November 2016 Mark had never had a TB reactor or inconclusive case on his holding.

On 22 November 2016, 12 animals left the farm for the ABP abattoir in Guildford and on the following day Mark received a call telling him that his holding had been placed under full TB restriction due to one of the animals having a suspicious lung. Within a week Mark had received a letter requiring the testing of all cattle by the year end. 600 animals were tested by 23rd December and all were declared TB free. With that information in hand, Mark and his vet tried, unsuccessfully, to contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to find out the next stage and, in particular, if a further test had to be completed within 60 days of the completion of the last test.
Nothing was heard from APHA until 15 January when Mark received a letter indicating that a culture test had been carried out on the suspect cattle which had proved positive for the presence of bovine TB. He was required to conduct a further full test by 20 March. Problems with the availability of veterinary professionals meant that Mark ended up testing his herd towards the end of the testing window.

In the meantime, Mark attempted to obtain licenses allowing him to bring in his usual crop of calves part in the spring but consent was refused until the retest had been completed. The retesting was completed on time for all bar two animals which somehow got missed. There was one inconclusive reactor which was re-categorised as a reactor under the severe interpretation rules. Despite ensuring that the remaining two animals were tested as soon as possible, Mark was faced with an RPA fine for a late TB test against which he submitted an appeal.

By mid-April, due to the shutdown of the holding, cash flow was under severe pressure and Mark carried out a TB test of 110 cattle on a separate holding with a view to selling is animals to raise some cash. Before the animals were due to move Mark was contacted by APHA noting his pre-movement testing but placing this separate holding under full restrictions as he had used the same personnel and machinery on this holding as he had on the main holding already under restriction. Mark appealed this decision and was allowed to proceed with his plan subject to a clear check test on the holding which was obtained however it still took three weeks for the decision to be made allowing him to move the livestock.

With empty rearing systems and no stock to sell to customers for winter 2017/18 Mark then applied for a licence to bring on 100 calves. The license was granted in April by which time all the local dairy herds had finished calving leaving him with no option but to buy higher risk calves from further afield. With no option but to buy higher risk calves from the west which we have never had to do.

The next TB test took place in the last week of May when many of the cows were out to grass making the job more difficult to complete. The animals had to be moved closer to the buildings in the week before the test and it took about a week after the test to ensure that everything was back in the right place. Mark calculated that each full, TB test equates to around 16 full-time days normally and nearer 20 full-time days in the summer. The herd went clear on this test but there was a requirement for a further test within 60 days which was booked in for the end of July. During this time Mark continued to apply for licences to move calves onto the holding and off to an Approved Finishing Unit (AFU) but was getting no response. At the end of June he received written confirmation that he was now clear of TB and was able to resume calf movements without licensing.

Financial impact
Mark reports that the financial impact of this breakdown was significant. The borrowing earmarked for increasing stock numbers ended up being used for feeding the existing stock due to the movement restrictions. The TFA assisted Mark in ensuring that he received his bps payment between Christmas 2015 and the New Year in 2016. Whilst the usual practice is to feed home grown grain, additional feed had to be bought in to cover all of the additional animals on the holding. Some of these costs may be recouped by the additional weight gain and the improvement in beef prices over the affected period. The increased stocking density also produced some health issues which required the use of antibiotics and having to buy in straw which would normally have been obtained only from farm.

The total cost of the breakdown to Mark’s business is estimated to have just over £100,000 been made up as follows:
First TB test (16 full-time days at £100 per day) = £1600
Second TB test (16 full-time days at £100 per day) = £1600
Third TB test (20 full-time days at £100 per day) = £2000
Additional labour to manage additional stock – 22 weeks = £8000
Additional vaccine and antibiotics for calves = £11200
Bought in barley (270 t @ £120/t) = £32400
Other bought in feedPellets bought in = £38,000
Bought in straw = £7000
Total = £101800

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