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Negotiating route through TB maze for moor grazers

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 09, 2014

Negotiating route through TB maze for moor grazers

Anton Coaker is working with state vets on the best way forward.

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In the battle against bovine TB, controversial further restrictions on cattle farmers are being introduced.

These include new requirements from June 30 2014 to TB test cattle before grazing them on common land, and test them post movement as they come off again. The new rules will present significant expense and difficulties for Westcountry hill farmers, such as those on Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and Exmoor.

None of us like it, but there it is. However, with an agreed TB control plan in place, we might be excused from post movement testing as cattle come off again.

The proposed control plans would include the requirement that each local Common’s Association put together a map showing their cattle graziers ‘lear’ – areas grazed-with numbers and timing of grazing. Also shown should be hard and soft boundaries, such as fences, fordable rivers etc, and overlaps between herds.

On Dartmoor, the Commoners Council would likely maintain an overall plan, and collate these sub-groups to present to the AHVLA.

Individual commoners would separately need to supply the AHVLA with a list of ear numbers of cattle in their moorland herd. This could be done by putting an ‘M’ beside relevant animals on the TB test sheets.

AHVLA will also want a map showing routes onto the common from the steading, and of fields/newtakes – preferably adjacent to the common – which can be used as a launch pad or holding ground for the moorland herd.

Once pre-movement tested, it would be anticipated that the moorland herd could be held on this ground until turned out the moorgate, or temporarily got back in for bulling/weaning and husbandry reasons.

The AHVLA would expect the cattle to be kept separate from the commoners in-bye cattle for the duration of the grazing season.

With these steps in place, AHVLA vets would assess whether the risk is low enough to grant an exemption from post movement tests. They have indicated that they should be able to do so in many cases

Failure to agree a plan which satisfies AHVLA will put commoners back to the default position of ‘test on, test off’.

More questions will certainly have to be addressed as they present themselves.

It is anticipated that whatever control plan can be agreed might be used as a template for commons elsewhere, although situations will inevitably vary. Dartmoor is in the unusual position of having multiple adjacent commons, almost all stocked with cattle.

Dartmoor also has a statutory body – The Dartmoor Commoners Council, which raises a levy, maintains a legal personality and staffed office. This will assist commoners on Dartmoor significantly.”

Anton is at pains to point out that this is his ‘take’ on what AHVLA have initially indicated they will agree to.

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