Runholder rails against TB testing

TONY BENNY
Last updated 09:03 14/06/2013

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High country farmer Harold Inch has threatened to refuse to have his cattle and deer tested for TB because inconclusive results in the past two years have led to animals being needlessly slaughtered, costing him thousands of dollars.

Inch's Benmore Station, near Springfield, is in an Animal Health Board-designated buffer zone, where TB testing is done annually.

"I don't want TB but every second year is fine and I have no problem with it but yearly, when it starts costing animals, that's a nightmare," Inch said.

"Because they've got the law on their side, I'm fighting a losing battle."

Last year one of Inch's hereford bulls reacted to the test and a blood test was inconclusive, so the animal was slaughtered.

"It goes to the freezing works, and this bloody bull cost me four or five thousand dollars, and then they say, 'oh no, there's nothing wrong with it, it's fine'."

Compensation is set at 65 per cent of market value but Inch said that was based on the meat price and his bull was worth closer to $8000 than the $2000 he received because it was a stud animal.

He said he had also had to have deer slaughtered after inconclusive results, only for them to be declared free of TB after autopsy.

"So I rang them up and said, 'I told you last season that was your last yearly test, you're going to do two years from now on because I'm not going to wear this bull...., it's costing me a bloody fortune for nothing'."

Animal Health Board communications manager John Deal said the 65 per cent compensation paid for slaughtered cattle was an industry-agreed figure, not an arbitrary amount AHB had come up with.

"The reason for it is to provide a disincentive to farm with TB," he said. "Many years ago I believe compensation was 100 per cent of animals slaughtered and the issue around that is why would you not farm with TB if you're going to get 100 per cent value of the animals when they're slaughtered."

Deal said buffer zones were an important part of AHB's drive to eliminate TB from 2.5 million hectares by 2026, and annual testing was necessary.

"Often an area marked for eradication is bounded by an area that does have infection so the point of having buffer zones is to make sure that where we are eradicating or have eradicated TB, infection from neighbouring areas does not spill back and undo the work being done," said Deal.

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