The aim of the TBAS Awards was to champion the hard work and effort many farmers are putting in to reduce the risk of a TB breakdown and the impact that TB can have on farm businesses.
Over the last three years we have held meetings, attended shows, spoken at farming events and been able to engage with farmers and vets in the concept of #ControlTheControllable.
TB is all too often seen as a Government issue, a disease which farmers and vets can have little influence over, here at TBAS our aim has been to change that mind set, to share the science and evidence around TB in order to encourage farmers to take some ownership and control back.
We are delighted to share with you our TBAS Award Winners and what they have done on farm to #ControlTheControllable.
TB Advisor winner: Kate Parrish MRCVS Fairfield House Vets (sponsor VetPartners)
Kate was nominated by her client Elizabeth Buchanan.
Elizabeth farms in East Sussex and was shocked and devastated when last spring they had their first TB breakdown. She talks about her world ending, especially for her Grandmother who had started the herd of organic pedigree Sussex from scratch nearly a century ago. The practical aspects of having to test whilst cattle were out at summer grazing was also a huge pressure.
Elizabeth had a visit from TBAS and says the service and advisor could not have been more helpful, and she has implemented not only the four recommendations we suggested but other biosecurity measures discussed at the visit.
Elizabeth said “Kate could see how anxious we were and talked us through all that needed to be done. She was kind, patient and so empathetic”.
The judges were impressed with Kate’s understanding of the impact TB had on her client and although not doing the breakdown testing within the practice, she still gave the information and advice a farmer’s private vet should be doing, just like vets do for all other infectious diseases.
BCVA President Nikki Hopkins said “the Private vet’s role as the ‘trusted advisor’ is so underestimated, knowing the farm, the farm business, the geography it is situated in and more importantly knowing the farmer themselves is key to TB eradication on an individual farm. Private vets need to look at what their role is on farm, which isn’t just about the TB test itself.”
Advisor Award Special Mention:
Simon Smith and Graeme Smith are both independent TBAS advisors and were nominated by the admin team within TBAS. The admin staff who take all the farmer enquiries and feedback for the service said “Of all the TBAS advisors these two are by far the most prolific, and we always have excellent feedback and comments about them from the farmers. Their knowledge of the subject and the ability to give practical on farm advice is invaluable and the farmers recognise that”. Sarah Tomlinson TBAS Technical Director said these two advisors epitomise the TBAS ethos and have been fundamental to the success of the TB Advisory Service.
Innovator winner: David Hellier (sponsor NFU)
David was nominated by his business partner and wife Alice Hellier.
David and Alice are dairy farmers on the Somerset/ Wiltshire border. They have been in and out of TB restrictions for over 12 years, losing around 10 animals a year. In 2018 they lost 35 six month old calves. They thought about what could have caused so many young animals to get infected with TB and realised that some of the paddocks used for the calves were surrounded by woodland with high numbers of badgers. The Hellier’s were feeding the calves in low troughs in the ground and soon realised that they had also been supplementing the local badger population during the very dry summer that year.
TBAS carried out a visit and we identified areas where TB could be entering the farm and gave practical advice as to what could be done to reduce the risks and changing the ways the calves were fed was a notable one.
Alice describes David “taking the bull by the horns to control the controllable”. He tried to find suitable troughs to fit their farm, environment and practices but could find nothing that would work instead, he designed his own; simple, easy to move by staff and most importantly badger proof.
The Hellier’s have badger proofed the calf sheds where ad lib cake is fed and also started to use more sexed semen so if the worst should happen again there would be fewer calves to move off whilst under TB restrictions.
Judge James Wood said, “I hope that when farmers see what David has done, it helps them see what they could do themselves on farm for their own business, he saw a problem without an obvious solution and designed his own”.
Innovator Special Mention:
Alan Hughes is a farmer who has designed the ‘TB Buster’. With a history of TB on his farm in Shropshire the advice from vets was that badgers sharing mineral licks, feed and water troughs were a major risk factor. Not finding anything suitable on the market he designed and developed his own lick holder which the Royal Agricultural University has tested; “Badgers were unable to access the mineral licks held in the TB Buster and it can withhold substantial interaction from cattle”. He has now developed a badger proof universal creep feeder.
Dairy winner: Jamie and Ally Cook (sponsor Arla)
The Cook’s were nominated by Andy Robertson of the National Trust (who as one of the judges- obviously sat out of judging this category)
Jamie and Ally farm an organic dairy herd in Devon, they have been under TB restrictions for over three years. As with many large dairy farms, TB restrictions has caused problems rearing all the calves.
Being National Trust tenants meant that they were not permitted to join in any local badger control licence applications, which has added to the Cook’s stressful situation.
Despite not being able to control the wildlife risk as other farmers they did not just give up. They have remained positive and have been proactive in trying to do all they can to reduce their TB risks.
In 2019 Jamie and Ally had a TBAS visit and since then have put in place significant badger proofing measures to their farmyard and buildings. Most have been installed by themselves at minimal cost, including the mesh panels over the calf feed.
They have received external detailed farm business advice quantifying the impact TB has on the business and as a result have made some informed management decisions such as reduction of numbers so as to reduce the amount of rented land needed away from home.
As National Trust tenants they have actively engaged in the badger vaccination program run by the Trust.
They have just celebrated their second consecutive clear test and are now officially TB free.
Judge Stuart Roberts said “All too often farmers feel the only option to reduce TB in their cattle herds is to cull badgers. The Cook’s, through no decision of their own, could not. It would have been so easy for them to have felt demoralised and defeated, instead they engaged in what they could to reduce badger and cattle contact and disease spread between local cattle. They controlled the controllable”.
Dairy Award Special Mention: Marcus Hohl.
Marcus farms in North Devon and suffered his first TB breakdown for 20 years in 2018. He worked with his vets and identified the TB problem to be in a specific group of animals. He requested selective gamma testing of the affected group to reduce the risk of bringing TB back into the herd. He took biosecurity measures at pasture which included cattle fencing off a stream that was used by badgers and cattle and installed raised water troughs in the problem paddocks.
Through a combination of addressing the cattle to cattle spread and the badger risks he has successfully become TB free again and has also become CHeCS accredited for TB.
Marcus was nominated by his vet Adam Reid, from Torch Farm Vets. Adam has supported TBAS as one of our advisors and in his nomination highlights the work TBAS has done to encourage private vets to work as part of the farm team to help eradicate TB from a herd or reduce the risk of a breakdown.
Sucker winner: Juliet Cleave (sponsor Suckler Beef Producers Association)
Juliet farms pedigree Devon cattle in Cornwall. She told us that she had been TB free for 8 years but living in the South West she was always in fear of a breakdown.
She proactively does many things to reduce the risk of introducing TB into the herd; no mineral licks are used, instead the cows are bolused, no cattle are fed on the ground, all troughs are high legged, including those for weaned calves. All water troughs are cleaned out before cattle use, no equipment is shared including muck spreaders. All hard feed is stored in sealed containers, badger activity is monitored all year. All visitors are expected to arrive clean.
Being a pedigree herd Juliet is engaged in proactive infectious disease management as a member of the Cattle Health Certification Standards (CHeCS) and does not see TB control any differently. The main control for all infectious diseases in the standards is controlling the risk from incoming stock. CHeCS require a period of isolation and post movement testing.
Juliet took full advantage of a free TBAS visit which was carried out by one of our trained advisors who also happened to be her own vet which she saw as a massive plus.
She has also completed an online TB course run by Land Based Learning which reiterated the TBAS messaging of identifying risk and reducing or eliminating what you can.
One of the important messaging is around the sensitivity of the test and asking the TB history of the farm of origin and using www.ibtb.co.uk to check a seller’s herd TB status in England and Wales.
Judge Andy Robertson said “This was an impressive entry as they have delt with TB as they would any other infectious disease and made choices to eliminate and reduce the risk of a TB breakdown. Many farmers only think about TB after the worst has happened and see suffering a breakdown an inevitable consequence.”.
Suckler Award Special Mention:
Paul Brereton was nominated by one of our very experienced TBAS advisors and his private vet Rose Palmer. Having suffered a TB breakdown as a relatively new herd, Paul vowed to do everything in his power never to have to go through the same experience again.
Working out what the TB breakdown cost him in man hours, let alone in lost stock, pushed him to invest in badger proofing his farm, understanding it to be cost effective. He invested in badger proof stock fencing, badger proof water and feed troughs and raised all his mineral licks. He has also joined the CHeCS TB accreditation scheme seeing it as a tool to stay TB free, but also reassures any buyers that despite being in a high-risk area, they are a low-risk herd. Shropshire was one of the first HRA counties to move on to 6 monthly testing, as a CHeCS TB accredited herd Paul can remain on annual testing as APHA also see his herd as lower risk.
Rearer/ Finisher Winner: Doug Dear (Sponsor SellMyLivestock )
Doug farms just outside Selby in North Yorkshire, where he finishes cattle for farmers on a bed and breakfast system. All cattle feed intake is monitored and weight gain, they also offer a marketing service to match the right specification cattle to the right end buyer. Doug said on his entry form “As we are in a TB 4 area it was the responsible path to take to become an LFU (Licenced Finishing Unit), to protect the clean status of the surrounding area, wildlife, and our neighbour’s cattle”.
Being an LFU has advantages for the business too; there is no statutory TB testing such as post movement or tracer testing and importantly for neighbours no radial testing if there is a slaughterhouse case of TB.
It was this responsible attitude; Doug’s mention of a “mindset” change and the amount of work and expense Doug has put into ensuring the unit functions well not only as a beef unit but also to ensure the unit does not put surrounding businesses at risk. Doug has also been very open with farmers about his business and regularly speaks at meetings to discuss the process of becoming an AFU.
Judge Stuart Roberts said, “I am delighted to see Doug win this award. The fact that Doug not only has invested in his own finishing unit but has also done so in a way that recognises the importance of protecting the clean status of neighbouring units and the wildlife is a real credit to him. I really hope in years to come we see more people following this example”
TBAS technical Director Sarah Tomlinson comments:
All these winners have embraced the principles we at TBAS promote “control the controllable” if you cannot eliminate every risk, you can at least reduce them. All the eligible winners had taken advantage of free TBAS advice and found the information invaluable. Their private vet has also been a key advisor in many of the entry’s situations, something TBAS has always encouraged. All our advisors have empathy for the stress and anxiety around TB, they deal with the individual situations on farm in a bespoke manor whist offering practical advice and recommendations based on science and evidence.
Control the controllable, just because you cannot control all the risks in the most obvious way, does not mean you should not control what you can.
Congratulations to all our winners and to every farmer who has voluntarily taken TBAS advice on board and proactively changed the way they address TB risk management and eradication.
We would like to thank all of our sponsors for their support not only of these awards but of TBAS as a whole over the last three years, and also all the farmers who have had visits and/or attended meetings with us and helped to make TBAS the success that has become today.