Devon farmer Chris Facey is fighting the pending slaughter of his Aberdeen Angus, Tabitha, due today following two inconclusive TB tests, and calling on fellow cattle farmers to speak out against the current testing and compensation procedures.

Chris, from Yellowayes Farm in Ilfracombe, is feeling very distressed following his cow being sentenced to slaughter after producing two inconclusive TB test results.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), part of DEFRA, is offering Chris compensation of £766 for the young first calved Aberdeen Angus X suckler cow with her Charolais calf at foot and three months back in calf to the Charolais bull.

Chris argues that the cow's actual value is approximately £1,000, and has had valuation done by a local auctioneer that supports this. He says he knows she would make £1,100-plus at market.

Chris says the TB compensation is based on the average cull cow price from the previous month and not on the average breeding cow prices as it should be.

During these current difficult times for farmers, he argues that the losses that can be made by the current TB systems are adding a lot of un-necessary stress.

"Many farmers are going through the same thing but nobody wants to speak up - no one wants their farm to be associated with TB", he said.

Chris also argues that the tests are not accurate enough. He says that the TB test that is used is an antiquated test, with a lot of the reactors whether it be inconclusive or positive actually turning out to be wrong when slaughtered and the clean meat put back into the food chain at the normal price.

"We have never had a case of TB on my farm in the 50 years that I know of," said Chris. "If the result was positive that might be different, but with an inconclusive result it just doesn't seem right.

"She has been isolated for five months now following the first inconclusive test and she's a very healthy looking cow, with none of the signs of TB."

Defra says that post-mortem meat inspection and laboratory cultures are less sensitive than the skin test. Therefore, a failure to confirm the disease by post-mortem examination at the slaughterhouse, or by growing the bovine TB bacterium in the laboratory, does not prove that those animals were free of the infection. In the early stages of bovine TB the lesions in the affected organs are often microscopic and, due to the fastidious nature of the causative bacterium, it is not possible to culture it from samples in every case. It also points out that the latest published national statistics show that in England overall, the headline herd incidence rate and herd prevalence have decreased for the 12 months to March 2019 compared with previous 12 months.

After receiving the APHA's valuation in the post, Chris says he rang them to discuss the process on Monday, June 10, and was told that removal would be by June 20.

Chris said: "I replied no way were they taking her for that amount as she was a young cow with many years ahead of her. The lady asked me, 'are you refusing?, to which I replied, 'yes I am', as it was day-light robbery."

The APHA representative informed Chris that if he did not comply he would lose 15 per cent of his single farm payment. As Chris does not receive any subsidies for his farm, he stuck to his guns.

He says that over the past week he has received at least 14 calls from the APHA asking him to contact them to arrange the hand-over of the cow. On Wednesday, August 21, he received a voicemail stating that his cow was being booked into the abattoir for today (Tuesday, August 27).

"I have not agreed to let them have my cow", said Chris. "It’s nothing more than harassment.

"I have the yard in front of her barricaded up with a swing shovel and machinery so it will be difficult for them to get at her.

"It is time that the APHA and the Government started to listen to the farmers and support them instead of trying to put them out of business", he concluded.

Chris says he has been told that if he does not comply he will be taken to court to get a warrant to remove the cow from his property and will also get a criminal record.

Defra told South West Farmer that they aren't able to comment on individual cases, but provided the following reply: “Bovine TB remains one of the greatest animal health threats to the UK, causing devastation for hard-working farmers and rural communities.

"That is why we are pursuing a range of interventions to eradicate the disease by 2038, including tighter cattle movement controls, regular testing and vaccination.”