We here at TBFree-England do not want to down-play the impact that Bovine TB has on the farmers affected, it is still a very important issue; but has the NFU been exaggerating the severity of the disease? And is it really at the epidemic proportions that they’d have us believe?
We’ve been trying to source data to verify these very questions, so imagine our surprise when we discovered the answers…
After spending hours trawling through Defra documents, we came across this site (Dairy Co) with figures presented from 2001 until April 2013. Below is their table with a calculation (in blue) of the average number of cattle ‘culled’ due to infection/number of tests:
As you can see, for over a decade, although the number of cattle slaughtered has increased so has the amount of testing; in 2001 only 1.2 million cattle were tested compared to 8 million in 2012. When you calculate the percentage of tested/slaughtered the figure has stayed constant between 0.4 – 0.6%.
It can be concluded, therefore, that increased testing increases the likelihood of discovering hidden infection within the herd. The NFU have openly admitted that only “49% [of cattle were tested] in 2012″, and although they claim that more cattle have tested positive this year compared to last, they have also admitted that “an estimated 61% of all cattle in England will be tested annually from 2013″ (NFU). This correlated exactly to the results presented in the table; if you test more you will find more.
So is bTB on the rise, or (as the results suggest) is it merely hidden within herds which are going untested?