26 February 2016 – Checking for TB

By Frances Graham

This week we have being TB testing, it’s a week that we have all being dreading as it takes up a lot of time and can be frustrating work. All the cows that we keep for breeding need to be tested every 4 years. The vet needs to come out and skin test all the cows and then return within a 72 hours period, to see whether they have reacted to the test. The length of time between tests depends on whether a farm has been shut down with tuberculosis before.

It was hectic on Tuesday as the vets changed the day at the last minute from Friday to Tuesday – so everyone was running around trying to get set up for when the vet came. To handle the cows, we made a race to funnel the cows into the cattle crush. A cattle crush holds the cow by the neck, enabling you to treat the cow with ease. But getting the cows into it can be a task. My uncle and brother sorted the cows out and walked them into the crush. You do not go near cows with dogs now as dogs upset them and someone can get injured if the cows get upset. When the vet arrived on the first day, the first cow went in well. The vet jabs them in the neck in two different places with two different drugs. But before he jabbed them he trimmed the hair on the neck in two places with a set of clippers, like some people use to cut their hair. When the cow was in the cattle crush my Dad told me the tag number of the cow and then I had to find it on the paperwork and write down two different skin measurements that the vet told me- one from each place on the neck where it had been trimmed. All the cows went through the crush well really, there were only two that were a bit uneasy. They are jabbed in the two different places with a small dose of Avian and Bovine Tuberculin and measured the first day and second day. If an animal has TB there is a skin reaction to the jabs, meaning that the 72 hour measurement is different.

Before we knew it, it was Friday and the vet came early again, which is unusual, normally the vets are late! The cows started coming and they went into the crush just as well as the first day, often they are reluctant to enter the cattle crush a second time. We took advantage of having the cows in the cattle crush and had them PD (pregnancy diagnosed) – to check that they are in calf. The cows will calve within the next 3 months. All of them apart from one was in calf. The ones that were in calf were then jabbed against Rotavirus to help prevent their calves getting scour. Scour is when the calves’ muck is very runny and nothing is stopping inside them.

The vet told me the results of our test and luckily none of ours had reacted. The fact we had no reactors means that we are free from TB. If there had being a reactor, then we would have had to have another test 60 days afterwards. Then if a cow reacted again it would have to be slaughtered, plus all farms within a 3km radius of our farm would be shut down. These would all have to have a 60 day test, followed by a six month test if they passed the 60 day test. If a farm gets shut down it means that you cannot move stock off your farm. We are lucky that it is 4 year testing cycle as it is very time consuming job!