THE hocus-pocus ‘Reactive Skin Test’ (RST) method for Bovine Tuberculosis (bTb) was devised in 1923! It is extremely hit and miss and is the main cause of the serious predicament the country is in today.

Defra and the government are aware of its shortcomings and is the reason they test again after 60 days if a reactor is detected.

Unfortunately, they do not allow for the unpredictability of a very contagious disease, especially when it is in the incubation period.

We need to utilise the high-tech blood testing method which is 98 per cent efficient, better known as the Gamma Interferon test, and it should be implemented for all cattle before they can be sold on (as well as with all known infected herds).

History highlights the problem. In the late 1950s, RST was made compulsory during a widespread outbreak of bTb. If one reactor was detected, then the whole herd was culled, and therefore, end of infection. Fortunately, this overcame the poor efficiency of the test as any reactors which were missed were still culled.

By 1971, bovine tuberculosis was almost eradicated in the whole of Great Britain. The only areas still with infection was the counties of Devon and Cornwall.

Again, in 1971 the government, through MAFF, jumped the gun and decided to only cull detected reactors! A second test 60 days later was introduced and was intended to pick up any which the test had missed, but this very contagious disease can already have been passed on.

Look at the maps of bTb infection year by year and it shows the infection radiating out from Devon and Cornwall.

We now have a 25-year plan to eradicate bTb. Is there anyone who can see 'the plan' working? Even Australia has a successful eight-year plan to get rid of the disease.

Come on Defra, Government and the NFU, get a fairer detection system for the farmers.

Ron Riley