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Bovine TB: The devastating impact on Northern Ireland herds

Pedigree cattle being loaded onto the transporter to the abattoir

If you’re a dairy farmer, then helping load your pedigree herd on to a lorry to the abattoir must be a very difficult day’s work.

Last week, I watched a farming family – a father and two sons – do just that.

All three, at one time or another, were in tears.

Their cattle had tested positive for bovine TB, a cattle disease that will cost the taxpayer £40m this year in testing costs and compensation payments.

It’s estimated that almost one in 10 herds now has it.

The family has asked not to be identified, worried that other farmers may not want to buy cattle from them even after they’re clear of the disease.

More than 60 of their cows had gone down with the disease, around a third of their milking herd.

It means the money they get for their milk will be reduced by about £20,000 a month.

And because they can’t buy replacement animals until they’re declared disease free, that situation could continue for several months.

But there are other considerations than just the pure financial.

There’s the emotional wrench of losing a big part of a herd it has taken 30 years to build up.

These animals have been selectively bred over three decades to provide top quality milk and that’s a bloodline you don’t recover easily.

And then there’s the impact on families, and in particular children, who are a big part of any farming outfit.

The sons on this farm have their own children who’re developing a love of this way of life.

And it’s very hard to explain to a young boy that his favourite cow, which looks quite healthy, has to be slaughtered.

“He loves the cows, he wanted to come down and see them before they went today,” his father said.

Source: BBC

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