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If TB doesn't get you, the pen pushers surely will

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

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I'm happy to say we've had a clear test. We've got to go through it all again in a couple of months, so it's no good planning anything yet, but it's good to have taken this step.

Because I'm a creaky and sneaky old bloke, I'd organised plenty of help, and the cattle were very civilised – as you know, I try to keep my bovines as quiet as is practical. One two-year-old however, let the side down. She's a wild thing out in the field, setting off the rest of her group, and a nasty little dirtbag close up. Such behavioural traits will cause her head to fall off in fairly short order. I note that her sire went through a somewhat testy period as a youngster but settled very well eventually. Her siblings are as quiet as you like, and I've kept a half-brother entire, who is as biddable and dopey as they come.

After we'd done the main lot of readings, we started fluking the cows. I know it's been a much better year for fluke – or rather, a bad year for fluke and a better one for the cows – but liver fluke has a fairly long cycle, so I'm assuming the build-up over recent wet years will still need addressing. I know this is also 'official' advice, but I never pay much heed to the warnings about parasite burdens, and how much you should be drenching… guess who usually funds such warnings? Why the wormer companies of course. Still, we are fluking again this year. Joe managed to jab himself for some reason – I've told him, it's for the cows, not you. He bled pretty well, so I should probably have been a bit more sympathetic. I'm not sure whether to enter this in the accident book or the medicine record though.

The cows are looking a treat, and enjoying this dry weather very much indeed. It helps their mood that while I'm trying to make space to wean the remaining calves, I'm feeding everyone the lovely hay which is stored right in the way. Some of this is in huge great square bales, and with the ground dry I'm able to drop one in the Landrover, and whizz about anywhere I want. Goodness, if the going was always as easy as this, winter would be a doddle. I have told the cows that, come Christmas, they'll have to start on some rather less auspicious silage, but still, as an old pal used to tell me, "they can't take away what you've already had!"

The feed passage up through the new shed is concreted, and I'm also stacking bales along there to make space, so some of the vast herd of youngstock careering about the place can come in shortly as well. I daresay this cold will intensify the minute that happens, stopping the water, but we'll burn that bridge when we come to it.

Now I wish from the very bottom of my toes, to the shiny top of my bald noggin, and with every fibre of my being, that I could move away from the subject of TB. But it's not to be.

Not only have we got to schedule another round of testing in the depths of winter, which will be a major problem, I also cocked up the timing of this test. You see, while some rules focus on so many days from the day you start jabbing, others hinge on the date you finish – I know it's hard to believe, but really, they have somehow made the rules like this. I thought I'd got it spot on, but it seems that we were 48 hours late finishing our test. Given how far afield the cattle were when we started, and that I was busy clearing the common of sheep and wrestling them into the dip the week before that – and I'm afraid the timing of such activities are set in rather firmer stone than testing the cattle – I surprise myself that I've come through the last month sane and still on my feet.

The letter informing us about being late arrived within the 48 hours, by recorded delivery, and was 'just a touch' threatening – apparently the sky is falling and I'm to be shot at dawn. Alison is upset, not liking nasty letters by recorded post. Meanwhile, if you recall, the self-same department had just, three days previously, written instructing me that I must test my cattle every 12 months. I can only speculate how farmers less able to follow it cope. There are pages of rules and smallprint, and while they can make any paperwork error they like, we cannot.

Never mind Owen's plan to cull wild cattle. It's the owners you need to worry about, son.

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