Live export markets for both pedigree and commercial cattle
may have re-opened - but UK farmers need to take on board herd
health planning now to avoid jeopardising these opportunities,
warns Graham Brooks, the new president of the British Cattle
Graham Brooks, president of the
British Cattle Veterinary Association
While cattle farmers in England and Wales face tougher
Defra controls this year in continued attempts to eradicate
bovine TB, Mr Brooks says producers themselves, in a co-ordinated
partnership with universities and other bodies, need to take
control of endemic non-zootic diseases such as BVD, IBR and
Johnes before the export doors are closed again.
Mr Brooks, who specialises in dairy and beef cattle through
his Coomara practice at Carleton, Carlisle, and who holds
a diploma in bovine reproduction, took over the presidency
at the BCVA’s annual congress.
A member of the BCVA – which with just under 1,400
members is a specialist division of the BritishVeterinary
Association - for more than 20 years since his involvement
with the Carlisle practice, he is well aware of the potential
problems facing exports.
“Personally I think the farming community is going
to have to get control and eliminate these diseases before
it affects the export trade,” said Mr Brooks.
“Already certain parts of Germany and Italy are IBR-free
and therefore won’t accept cattle from this country
which have been infected with the disease and it’s not
going to be long before BVD joins the list.
“The agricultural industry will have to take this on
board because the government is not going to put in place
measures to control it. It’s going to affect both the
commercial producer – already large numbers of stirks
and older cows are being exported – as well as the pedigree
“Because the majority of farms have not got sufficient
bio-security to prevent the spread of infection to neighbouring
holdings, it’s not something that can be tackled on
an individual farm basis. It has got to be a nationwide industry
initiative and we need to find someone to set it up and run
Currently the BCVA is supporting a pilot project in Norfolk
and Suffolk run by LondonUniversity, one of a number of educational
institutions and testing laboratories across the country which
could become involved in a co-ordinated scheme which Mr Brooks
says the government would probably pump-prime.
Reading University is also working on a computer programme
to be available in the new year on the cost advantages of
individual farm businesses in controlling these diseases.
“The BCVA is very concerned about cattle health status
in general and the possibility of problems with exports. We
all make our living from farmers and we don’t want them
to miss out on opportunities to keep their businesses viable.”
Producers in England and Wales face increasing costs from
additional TB testing which starts on March 1 next year.
Figures have shown the incidence of bovine TB has reduced
over the last few months in England and Wales although this
may be due to the use of a different strain of tuberculin
in reactor tests which now has to be imported from Holland
when it was previously made in the UK.
However, despite the decrease, the law has already set in
place the necessity for pre-movement testing of cattle from
42 days of age instead of 15 months from March 1, 2007.
Charges for testing are likely to vary widely across the
country and Mr Brooks said there was a question over whether
the veterinary profession would be able to cope with the extra
The Government has been running a bovine TB eradication scheme
since the 1950s and the disease was virtually eliminated in
the 1970s and 1980s.
While UK hot spots are in the south west, an increase in
the disease in the north west was apparent after herds were
re-stocked after foot and mouth in 2001.
Mr Brooks said that translocation of cattle was still the
most likely cause of spread of the disease in Cumbria as,
in most cases of a reactor, there had not been a herd breakdown
within the following six to nine months.
* The son of a builder from Middlesbrough where his boyhood
ambition of becoming an agricultural vet was inspired by caravanning
holidays on a farm and the James Heriot stories, Graham Brooks
left the Royal Veterinary College, London, with a Bachelor
degree in veterinary medicine.
He took up his first appointment in Blackburn where he met
his wife-to-be Lynne and 18 months later in 1993 he joined
the Coomara Practice in Cumbria, becoming a partner in 1989
and then sole partner in 1999.
Now he and Lynne, who deals with administrative work, run
the practice which is 70 per cent farm work covering north
Cumbria and the south of Scotland with the remainder dealing
with horses and small animals.
They employ two full-time and three part-time vets, two full-time
qualified veterinary nurses, a full-time administrator and
four part-time reception staff.
“It’s an honour to be asked to take on the role
and during my year in office I hope to be able to put something
back into the profession,” said Mr Brooks, who has been
a member of the BCVA’s council since September 2001.
© Copyright 2007 Jennifer
MacKenzie All Rights
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