June has started with some much-needed warmth and the grass has finally grown here in Furness. Hopefully, we will not be working from home much longer with the vaccination rollout going so well. Hearing that there were zero deaths from Covid-19 countrywide on Tuesday 1 June gave real reason for optimism.
I have just been listening to one of our national NFU online forums about education and it was great to hear how our education team are engaging with schools across the country.
We also heard from farmers who are speaking to local schools and pupils about agriculture and the environment.
However, the most positive contribution in my mind was from a teacher who had invited a local farmer to go and speak to her class.
She spoke of how farming cuts across so many curriculum subjects, from geography to maths and science and how engaged the young people where when the farmer spoke.
It struck me that we need more of this. The anti-farming, ultra-green brigade is simply allowed to churn out their propaganda to young people without them getting the full facts.
Our industry is leading on the environmental agenda. We produce top quality traceable welfare friendly food, so we have everything to gain by making sure the next generation are aware of this. We might even encourage a few younger folks to start on the farming ladder.
In other news, our President Minette Batters has been doing a sterling job engaging with MPs and law makers on the proposed Australia free trade deal.
Whilst we as an industry want to trade with the rest of the world and do it well, we do need our government to understand that safeguards need to be put in place to ensure our businesses can thrive for generations to come.
It only makes sense that we apply the same high standards we adhere to, to any imported food. With the focus now so heavily on carbon reduction and food miles, surely the Government would not want tonnes of cheap food that does not meet our standards arriving from the other side of the world?
Although to be fair this is a balancing act, and we need to open up the world markets for our produce now we have left the EU.
The devil as they say will be in the detail of any deal, but this is massively important as many other countries will be watching the content and will want the same concessions.
The best kept secrets are worth keeping, although it's difficult to keep secrets within a tight knit farming community.
However, as the 'wildlife control' project in East Cumbria makes positive progress I think it’s time we began sharing this very positive story within the farming community.
In the spring of 2017, after a number of TB breakdowns had been found in cattle herds in the Penrith area that couldn't be explained by cattle movements, Animal Health asked for help from the rural community in reporting road killed badgers and deer.
Carcases were collected for post-mortem (they’re still being accepted by the way), and the unwelcome news came at a meeting on August 3rd, 2017, that three badgers had tested positive for bovine TB.
Those of you closely involved in the project will know that the type of TB in those badgers matched the TB found within many of the cattle herds under restriction in the area. And something was discovered that made it easier to deal with, this particular type of TB had never been seen on the UK mainland. Its closest match is commonly found in Mid Ulster (Northern Ireland).
I won’t get into detail, just in case copies of this magazine end up in a waiting room somewhere in the post covid world, but it’s safe to say that between 2017 and autumn 2020 infected badgers have reduced in number to zero.
A single cattle herd remains under restriction. In 2020 badger vaccination was carried out in a portion of the area and in 2021 that programme will attempt to vaccinate badgers across a larger area, something that will continue to expand to cover the whole area of concern as long as no further disease is found in 2021.
Back in the autumn of 2016, cattle keepers in that area were asked to test their herds six monthly, something they have dutifully done, with only a little bit of grumbling.
Thankfully now that we have seen TB in cattle and badgers reduce, those on the outer edge of the area will move back to 12 monthly testing from the autumn of this year.
As you'd expect, there are conditions that have to be met, but we're certainly on the road to Cumbria being classed as 'Officially TB Free' again. Just like Scotland! But please remember that only means 99.5% of the cattle herds are TB free!