Grazing methods defended after bovine TB hits Midhurst area

  • Farmers hit out at ‘old fashioned’ practices
  • Sussex Wildlife Trust says everything it does is Defra approved
  • More publicly available information about the location of BTB outbreaks is on the way

SUSSEX Wildlife Trust has hit back at claims its ‘18th century farming practices’ could be to blame for the current outbreak of bovine tuberculosis.

The claims were made in calls from farmers to the Observer after we reported last how week how the deadly disease was affecting parts of the Midhurst and Petworth area.

The trust uses 21st century grazing methods and practices.

James Power, head of land management at the Sussex Wildlife Trust

But the trust has dismissed the concerns saying its practices are all ‘21st century’ and approved by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

One of the affected cows had been grazing on Stedham Common, where badgers, which can carry the disease, are reported to be prevalent. It belonged to the wildlife trust.

A farmer, who did not wish to be named, said: “We want to know if the Sussex Wildlife Trust is going to continue its practice of allowing animals to graze on land where there are badgers and if they are going to continue trying to carry out 18th century farming practices in a modern world when there is such a danger of animals getting infected. This outbreak is a clear example of the fact that you just can’t do it. It is so stressful for farmers and is causing so much work with the testing and it is all as a result of these grazing policies.”

Another added: “It’s stupid to have so few cattle grazing over so big an area of woodland. They are trying to do something which doesn’t work in this modern age.

“It’s ridiculous and in these circumstances something is going to happen, because the cattle are grazing where the badgers are.”

But James Power, head of land management at the Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “The trust uses 21st century grazing methods and practices. Everything we do in the way we manage our life stock, testing regime, live stock records, everything is absolutely in line with what every other farmer across West Sussex would follow.

“There is nothing we do that is old fashioned. I know there are some inaccurate rumours in circulation which may be ill informing people. For example this idea that the trust buys its cattle from Gloucestershire an area of the country with a significant TB problem.

“I can categorically say it is not the case. The animal we had which tested positive here had been with us for eight years, and had had several BTB tests which all proved negative.

“We fully understand BTB is a big worry for the farming community where a lot of people are trying to make ends meet in challenging times. But it is not helpful to point the finger at the trust. Lots of people move cattle around. Everything we have done is in line with Defra.

“If Defra had any concerns or worries we would have heard about it by now. BTB is a big worry for everybody.”

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