Tuberculosis concerns force Wayland Show to cancel cattle competition

Scenes from the Wayland Show 2015 in Watton. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Scenes from the Wayland Show 2015 in Watton. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Concerns over the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) have forced the organisers of one of the UK's longest running agricultural shows to cancel their cattle competitions for this summer.

The Wayland Agricultural Show, which returns to Watton on August 7, had been hoping for a record turnout of large livestock this year.

But committee members have reluctantly taken the decision to cancel the cattle competitions following reports of TB infections in nearby herds.

Although Norfolk is a low-risk area for the disease a small number of isolated cases are recorded most years, usually from animals bought in from the high-risk areas in the west of the country.

Officials from the government's Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) said there were currently three ongoing cases in the county, including two in Breckland, outside Methwold and Thetford.

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A 'radial testing' zone has been established around those breakdowns, with cattle holdings within 3km subjected to additional testing and monitoring for any undetected infections.

Granger Harrison, a Lakenheath livestock farmer who runs the cattle competitions at the Wayland Show, said: 'At the moment, the showground is outside the radial testing zones but the landowner has other land which is close to the perimeter.

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'There are three breakdowns in Norfolk and there could be more after all this radial testing. It only takes another breakdown inside that radial zone to move the zone further towards the show. So it just seemed a sensible thing to not have the cattle there this year until it has all settled down and we know where we are going.

'It was thought that it would cause less inconvenience to all the exhibitors who support the show if the decision was made now rather than closer to the date of the show.

Mr Harrison said a further complication was the new measures introduced last month which require farmers in the low risk area to arrange post-movement testing within 60-120 days for cattle coming from the rest of England and Wales – including agricultural shows.

'A lot of people in Norfolk and Suffolk go to the Three Counties Show (near Worcester) where you are moving into a one-year testing zone,' he said.

Wayland Show chairman Adrian Soskin said: 'The Wayland Show is very conscious of its exhibitors and its farming members. The general feeling is that with the uncertainty existing throughout East Anglia that it is more responsible not to run the cattle classes this year.

'While we are a shop window we must never forget that our exhibitors make their livelihood from farming cattle and we would wish to safeguard that. However, many other livestock exhibits will be there including the sheep, pigs, horses and fur and feather.'

Other major agricultural shows are going ahead with their cattle compe-titions, but keeping a close eye on the TB situation.

Greg Smith, chief executive of the Royal Norfolk Show, said: 'Because we are in what Defra defines as a low risk area, we are following the proc-esses and all of the policies which reflect that.

'We have produced our own policies which we have pushed out to all our livestock exhibitors.

'The key thing to stress is there is no risk to the general public and in East Anglia we are in a low risk area but we are keeping a close eye on what the situation is and how it changes.'

Roger Long, head cattle steward at the Aylsham Show, said: 'We have discussed this at a meeting and while we are concerned and aware of the pitfalls, at this present time we still plan to have cattle at the Aylsham Show. If there were any more outbreaks it would be looked at very seriously.'

An APHA spokesman said: 'Norfolk remains a low risk area for bovine TB. Each year there are a small number of TB incidents in the county, typically caused by bought-in cattle. If a show fell within a radial testing zone, potentially there wouldn't be any impact – as mentioned, the radial zone is a precautionary measure to check for any secondary disease spread – however we would work with any show which fell within a radial zone on a case-by-case basis to look at the risks involved.'

Ongoing TB cases can be viewed on an online map. This shows three ongoing cases in Norfolk, two of which are new to 2016. There were four confirmed cases in 2015.

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