A picture is worth a thousand words and, thanks to YouTube, almost every new trend, scandalous leader and singing idol can be viewed after the tapping of a few keys. Today we are linking you to a cattle related video that deals with disease with TB in badgers. Before you raise your stop sign, keep an open mind for a minute. After all it could be TB in Canadian or American deer or wild bison. It could be brucellosis. After watching this 2011 film entitled, “Mayday at Heolfawr Cross” we hope you don’t remain on the fence, even though that is the final view we have of Dai Bevan as we see the destruction of his life’s work raising Longhorn cattle in Wales? Another stop sign? Longhorns are not Holsteins! Wales is not Canada or the US. Take a few minutes to see if there is anything to learn or, at the very least, who is to blame?
Oops! There’s the first mistake. If we decide that laying blame is the only outcome we seek, then there will never be a different ending to this sad story.
Ignore the problem or point the finger of blame
It’s hard not to feel empathy for Dai Bevan when he quietly acknowledges, “I am absolutely not in control of the situation.” Faced with the agonizing loss of his cattle who, though “not friends” are the individuals he cared for primarily all his life, he does get angry at those he feels caused this outcome “They are denying gravity. The world isn’t round it is flat. Why is a cow’s life so much less than a wild animal’s?” He asks the question and his veterinarian neighbours, also affected by TB, express their frustration. “We know what needs to be done, but politics is standing in the way.” They feel helpless.
Excuses, Blame and Status Quo
One video can’t possibly provide the full details of what has led to this situation. Of course, we see it through the filters of our own North American experience, which may only be arms length from such problems. Although this deals with wild animal vectors, we did experience the same agonizing decisions, finger-pointing and loss of animals and income, when we were in the negative spotlight of BSE. We could have said and did say the same words as Dai Bevan, “I don’t like that there’s nothing I can do.” But is that the final word?
Who’s Healthy? Who’s Sick?
The point that is touched on only briefly in this video, is that the badgers are hosting and perhaps suffering from TB. In North America deer are contracting the disease, as are wild bison. The end result is not just death for the cattle but also for the carrier. A good point is made that the general public has a fuzzy, sometimes fairy-tale view of wildlife from their far-from-the-farm vantage point. But at the end of the day, disease is disease. Ignored disease is deadly, whether it’s carried by wildlife, cattle or the person you meet for coffee today.
We all would like to think we have our personal (and farm) health protocols working properly but how often do you hear that a friend or family member has just received bad news from a health test and that they are facing a dire prognosis. There is nothing timely about a vet visit that ends with the disposal of an entire herd of cattle.
Prevention or Cure?
In the film the veterinarian points out that there has been awareness that TB has been present in the longhorn and other breeds for years. Of course, it became personal when it affected his own herd. We can’t bury our heads in clouds of hopefulness that it won’t become personal. Even if it isn’t our own herd of cattle, it affects sales, loss of genetic material, financial costs and the image of an entire country, industry and each farmer. As we heard on the video it’s time to stand up and say “The buck stops here!”
Priorities or Partnerships?
You can’t watch the video without having a response to it. Evan Bevan acknowledges that we all enjoy “hours at times watching badgers playing and rolling down banks. The difference is they’re healthy (i.e. non-lethal) badgers.” We all have a stake in healthy wildlife as well as healthy livestock. It is discouraging that conservationists “take the view that (badgers) are an absolute priority (over cattle) rather than a partnership. The two have to exist together.” A solution has to be found that doesn’t lose both wildlife and the animals that provide food for our tables.
North Americans are well-aware of the term Bio-Security. It may have had an impact on your farm already. It isn’t the fault or responsibility of someone else. Each one of us is responsible for the health status that affects our farm, our cattle, and our family. You need to be hyper-vigilant. This starts with awareness of risks. Get in touch with OMAFRA or Department of Agriculture and find out for yourself what current risks may be present in your area. We have had unusual weather which affects our crops and cows. It affects the wildlife population as well. What impact could it have on you? What input have you had from your farm team? Be proactive not reactive because, as a nutritionist recently told me, “Reaction means dead cows!”
THE BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE
When it comes to diseases that could wipe out your entire herd, you absolutely MUST know the answer to the question, “Where do you sit?” Hint #1: The answer cannot be “On the fence!” Hint #2: The answer cannot be “Wait and see!” If you wait, it’s too late!