Cattle · Farm life · Norfolk

Another TB test…

Over the past few days we have gone through another round of TB testing – the process for testing bovine tuberculosis in our cattle.

We live in a part of Britain that is considered low risk for TB so we are normally tested every four years (other higher risk areas have to go through it once a year).

But a year or so ago, a cow on a farm a few miles from us was detected to have TB. The implications of this were, and still are, huge.

It’s meant that ever since we’ve been on special measures which includes an immediate test and then one every six months. After today’s test we will be retested in six months time and, all being well, we’ll be back to our four-year cycle after that.

Regardless of what testing cycle you’re on, it’s a routine thing which must happen by law, but for me the process of going through it is hellish.

Primarily because of the implications a positive result will have – we could lose one, or all, of our cattle, and that thought is terrifying.

Every one of our small herd is an integral part of the farm.

Secondly, as we have such a small herd, penning them up even with the right equipment is, I’m sure, more testing than a large herd on a farm with lots of experienced help.

In the days leading up to the test it’s always a worry (even thought I know rationally that worrying won’t achieve anything).

To carry out the skin test a vet visits the farm twice, 72 hours apart.

On the first visit the cattle are injected in the neck in two places – with two vaccines, one is an antigen from avian TB and one is an antigen from bovine TB.

The test is comparative: on the second visit the vet gauges any reaction in the form of lumps – the size is the critical thing and if the animal is free of bovine the reactions should be similar and below a certain size – on some animals callipers are used to measure any reaction.

Thankfully, this week has been a busy one so I’ve been distracted from the pending second visit which happened this morning.

Happily, and as we suspected and hoped, all of our cattle are free of TB. We kind of thought that but until the results are in it’s all a waiting game.

While the vet was here, and the cattle were going through the crush (essentially a purpose-built animal crate for all sizes), we had two cows pregnancy tested. Both were positive and the first calf will be here in two to four months time – it’s an inaccurate science of sorts.

Today was stressful, but ultimately it’s wonderful to see the herd grow…

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