In Which the Harsh Realities of Farming are Experienced
I suppose you might put it down to a lack of experience or an omission of rigour on our part but whatever, it does seem especially cruel that we have to lose Herald, our bull, (about who you can read here and here if you’re interested), before he has had a real chance to become part of things. Not to mention the economic blow which last week’s news has dealt us.
This story, as always, begins with a blood test.
I travelled over to T & N’s to witness the routine TB testing of Herald, Woodbine, Daisy and Hollyhock and Woodbine’s calf. The vet was also doing a general blood test and checking to see if the cows were in calf, whether Herald had done what he was supposed to. The seeming lack of activity on this front had introduced doubt into our minds, so when it was revealed that at least two of them are definitely pregnant, and a possible for the other, there was excited relief all round. Which made the vet say in a practical and slightly incredulous way why wouldn’t they be in calf?
The vet was very helpful and assisted with some resistance on the cows’ part, apparently unusual in some older vets, who sometimes just stand around waiting impatiently while you struggle to move an unwilling beast securely into position. She was also really happy to answer my many and possibly annoying questions. All in all a very positive experience, especially when four days later they were all cleared for TB. She also reassured us that the skin complaint would probably clear up in better weather but to be on the safe side she gave them a coverall shot for mites and other beasties which can live on the skin.
Happy, we moved them to a new area.
So when I got a call from T to say that Heralds blood test had come back positive for Johne’s disease it was a shock. This disease is a contagious, chronic and fatal infection of the small intestine which can take years to manifest but will eventually kill the animal. They can also pass it on, mainly to young calves.
The upshot of this is that we have to have Herald culled, even though he is showing no signs of the disease yet. We can’t risk him infecting the others, especially the newborns in 8 months time. What isn’t entirely clear is whether those new calves will carry the disease too. The other grim factor to consider is that at this stage, his carcass will be worth something. Not nearly as much as we paid for him, but it will be something.
Of course we are kicking ourselves that we didn’t get all the tests done on Herald before we made the bank account denting purchase. But it is considered very low risk in beef cattle, being mostly a disease which affects dairy herds.
It is a very sad day that our journey with Herald has ended here. I feel like I was just beginning to get to know him and feel less intimidated because of his genuine gentle nature and T & N have certainly become fond as he became part of their lives over the last few months.
He will be missed.