The Pros And Cons of A Winter TB Test

Following a change in the timing of the annual herd test, suckler farmer James Strain has spent 12 years trying to talk himself into moving back to a summer test.

 

Every year I say I am going to move the test back to the summer. A summer test would make way more sense for me Pic. Donal O' Leary

Every year I say I am going to move the test back to the summer. A summer test would make way more sense for me Pic. Donal O’ Leary

The worry over the annul TB herd test has thankfully passed for hopefully another year, with a clear test last week. Thankfully we have never really had any serious issues with TB in my lifetime, but the fear of having a reactor and being closed up is always at the back of your mind when the test comes around.

Traditionally the herd test on our farm would have been carried out in July or August, but we’ve been testing in December for the past 12 years. Reason being, one of our neighbours had a reactor back in 2006, which meant that we had to carry out a second herd test that year to make sure we were clear.

This happened in December and we’ve been testing in December ever since. Its far from an ideal time of year for me, as it’s right in the middle of my calving season. This means that not all my calves are born and when it comes to the following autumn, if I want to sell weanlings, some of them may have to be privately tested before they can be sold.

Advantages

There is of course the advantage of all cattle being housed this time of year, which means they don’t need to be brought in from the fields for testing as they would have to be in the summer. Every year I say I am going to move the test back to the summer.

A summer test would make way more sense for me because I usually don’t sell any cattle between May and November. So, in the unfortunate event of my herd failing the test on some occasion, I would have a good long stretch to get my two clear subsequent tests without affecting my normal sales pattern.

As we know a herd that is closed with TB cannot sell cattle unless they are slaughtering them. We also know to be able to sell live cattle again, a farmer must achieve two clear tests and each test must be a minimum of two months apart.

Cashflow

So, there could be a period of four months where cattle cannot be sold. Four months could have a seriously detrimental effect on cashflow especially if you are waiting to sell cattle to pay bills, like most farmers are.

However, every year, when we get to the summer, I can never bring myself to book the test. No matter how much sense it makes, it always feels like wasting part of the previous year’s test. Maybe I’ll talk myself into it this year, who knows!

(Source – Irish Farmers Journal – James Strain – 03/12/2018)

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