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Pregnant heifers culled in East Devon following TB tests

Twenty three heavily pregnant heifers from a closed East Devon organic herd have been culled after testing positive for TB during routine checks.

Farm Manager George Perrott

Farm Manager George Perrott

Twenty three heavily pregnant heifers from a closed East Devon organic herd have been culled after testing positive for TB during routine checks.

The heifers were part of a 27-strong group belonging to the Clinton Devon Farms Partnership and were all due to give birth to their first calves within a matter of weeks. All of them were at least fourth generation from the same organic dairy herd.

Two of the heifers were shot at Otter Farm because they were too heavily pregnant to be transported to the slaughterhouse.

Farm Manager George Perrott said his team are devastated by the loss of the “perfect” heifers and their unborn calves. “This has wiped-out a quarter of our autumn calving heifers which would have progressed to the organic dairy herd at Otter Farm and it’s almost brought to an end the next generation in this perfect bloodline”.

“This isn’t just about the monetary loss – there’s a massive emotional impact too. It’s a truly horrific sight to witness,” explained Mr Perrott. Members of the Otter Farm team who assisted the slaughterman said that the unborn calves could still be seen moving inside the dead bodies of their mothers for a considerable length of time.

The pregnant heifers were valued by Stags Auctioneers at £1500 each although compensation paid by Defra only amounted to £750 for each animal. “There is also the loss of organic milk production from this generation of dairy cows that must be taken into account”, added Mr Perrott.

The diagnosis of bovine TB followed routine Defra tests that are carried out on all cattle on a regular basis between 60 and 90 days.

Speculating on how the heifers contracted the bovine TB, George Perrott explained: “Our cows graze many hundreds of acres of grassland around the parishes of Colaton Raleigh and within that area we know that there are contaminated badger setts. We do all that we can to separate them but it’s impossible to remove all risk.

“We know the signs of an unhealthy sett because badgers are very clean animals who will only use the very outer boundary of their territory as a latrine. When they’re unhealthy, they defecate close to their setts and are unable to remove their bedding – something they do habitually when they are well.”

Mr Perrott said: “This is not about pointing the finger of blame at the badgers though. We are locked in a vicious cycle where we’re killing cows and watching badgers suffer long and agonising deaths and we need to find a humane solution.

“I’m sure I speak for my fellow farmers when I say that we do this job because we are animal lovers and we absolutely do not want to see any animal suffer.”

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