Testing our nerves with jabs

Starlings in a treetop

Jenny follows heifers back to their field after testing, as Matt turns them on the road

First published in News by

After a tense week, we are pleased the result of a TB test on Manor Farm was clear. We are in an area renowned for infection, so dread our annual test.

It would be great if we could rid the country of bovine TB. It causes many farmers dreadful problems, but at the moment this seems very unlikely.

On Monday morning, the first animals to go through the race leading into a cattle crush – where they could be restrained and tested – were the dry cows.

The test was done by our vet, who first confirmed the identity of each animal by reading its ear-tag.

He clipped hair from two injection sites, one above the other, on the cows’ necks, before measuring a fold of skin from the sites.

I was doing the recording, so wrote down all the skin thickness readings.

The vet injected the sites with small amounts of tuberculin (a sterile antigen extract from a culture of mycobacterium bovis and mycobacterium avium.) Two injections are used, so cattle infected with bovine TB can be distinguished by the difference in the reaction on the two sites.

If an animal is infected with TB , it will get a localised allergic reaction a few days after the injection.

Next we gathered the young heifers for testing, followed by in-calf heifers. I always dread testing, in case any of the handlers or cattle become injured, as the animals very soon become aware that something out of routine is going on.

Our bull was also very amenable to the process. In the afternoon, all the milking cows were tested as they left the milking parlour.

Three days later, the cattle were gathered again. This time, a fold of skin on any injection site showing swelling was measured and recorded. The size and nature of both reactions determines if the result is positive, negative or just inconclusive.

At the start of the week, Char-lotte did the milk recording, as Ian milked the cows, collecting individual samples for analysis.

Later in the week, the results arrived, indicating that butterfat percentages have recovered and the cell counts (indicating udder health ) were not too bad.

The weather has remained mostly hot and dry, although the week began in a very wet day (48mm of rain fell in 24 hours) and ended on Manor Farm with a storm, depositing 1.5mm in a few minutes.

The good weather has enabled us to finish harvesting our winter barley, before the combine was needed at Stowell Farm to harvest the oilseed rape.

Before the oilseed could be cut, Kevin had to put a side knife on to the header, as without it the crop would not feed easily into the combine. He also replaced some of the tines on the intake auger.

Richard and Ian spent time delivering loads of sold winter barley to a feed mill in Calne, so we now have very little grain left in our store.

On Stowell Farm, all the ewe lambs have been wormed and all the breeding ewes sorted into groups ready for tupping later in the year.

A small flock has been selected to lamb next January and the hooves of any lame ewes examined and treated.

A hawk swooped into the garden the other day, grabbing one of a huge number of starlings here now.

Noticing me leave the house, it let go of the squawking bird, which promptly flew away. Prior to this, I had seen our parent swallows driving it away from their fledglings.

At the last count, I think all the young swallows in our shed have escaped the talons of the hawk.

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