The cost of slaughtering cows infected with bovine tuberculosis

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is an infectious disease of cattle (Bos primigenius) caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis. You might choose to follow the ‘tuberculosis’ tag on my blog.

Last month, here in Britain our Department for Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) released data about the cost of slaughtering cows infected or believed to have been infected with bTB over the last five years.

That document tells us that, during those years, the bill for compensation payments to farmers has been about £30 million per year, plus over £1 million for haulage, slaughter and disposal. That’s not trivial. But it hasn’t been changing dramatically.

On the other hand, DEFRA is recouping (getting back) far more money from the slaughtered cattle, each year, than it did five years ago. Meat from the diseased parts of these cattle isn’t classed as fit for human consumption. But after those parts have been trimmed away, the rest can be sold.

Still, this isn’t a profit-making situation for DEFRA – far from it! In 2012/13 DEFRA recouped only about a quarter of the money it had paid out for compensation, haulage, slaughter and disposal. And the farmers lost money on whatever plans they’d made to sell live cattle, or to breed from them and milk them.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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5 Responses to The cost of slaughtering cows infected with bovine tuberculosis

  1. It’s not really Defra’s money though… it’s ours, the taxpayers.

    And dire as the situation is for farmers facing culling of cattle, spare a thought for growers of all kinds of plants (including trees): if their stock has to be destroyed due to a notifiable disease, they won’t get any compensation at all, or very very rarely.

    • argylesock says:

      Good point. I don’t know much about the compensation payments DEFRA hands out, except for bTB and a few years ago, for Foot and Mouth. Do you know an example of a plant crop having to be destroyed due to a notifiable disease?

      • I’ve had first hand experience with fire blight, but there are lots of notifiable plant health diseases and pests and Fera’s view is
        “The longstanding policy of successive Governments is that compensation is not paid when plants have had to be destroyed to eradicate or contain pest outbreaks. It is felt that the limited resources of the Plant Health Service are better employed in the detection and identification of outbreaks, and research into risk and risk-management measures.” and the Forestry Commission (in this case in relation to Chalara) say: “Unfortunately we are unable to offer compensation for plants destroyed to comply with a Plant Health Notice. It is felt that the available resources are best used for surveillance, research and eradication work.”

        • argylesock says:

          Thank you for this. Here at Arygle Socktowers, it is felt that there are some weird choices about how compensation should be paid out, and to whom. I hope to return to this topic.

  2. Pingback: What the British government is doing about bovine tuberculosis | Science on the Land

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