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Investigate the longer-term effects on farm businesses of a bTB breakdown - SE3120

Description
Over the last decade or so the rising incidence of bovine TB (bTB) has resulted in recognised economic and social impacts on the agricultural industry. The economic impacts result from the nature of the disease, the government’s control measures (restrictions on movement of cattle on and off the farm, repeat testing and compulsory cleaning) and the impact of test ‘failures’ on the normal marketing of livestock and product. The human impacts (on farmers, their families and farm staff) arise from the loss of animals, significant changes to normal routines, financial worries and the perceived increase in risk and uncertainty.

Moreover, the worsening of the disease situation - and hence the increasing economic and social impacts - of bTB has coincided with a period of considerable economic and policy pressures for the agricultural industry. Principal among these are (a) the recent major changes in the CAP, (b) established long-term changes in the food chain (many of which are detrimental to primary producers), (c) new requirements for increasingly environmentally-friendly farming systems and (d) increased competitive pressures from the enlargement of the EU and greater exposure to global markets. These pressures, which arise directly or indirectly from significant long-term adjustments in the food chain and in society’s expectations of farmers, have been well-documented (Curry Commission, 2002) as have the appropriate policy responses (Defra, 2002a).

Bovine TB is acknowledged as one of the most difficult animal health problems facing UK farmers and is a major source of uncertainty, and hence higher costs, in cattle production. Uncertainty always increases costs as it forces decision-makers to change how they allocate and manage existing resources, and to supplement them with new or additional resources. Moreover, although farmers are compensated for animals culled, statutorily government compensation cannot reflect broader, long-term losses. Several studies have pointed to longer-term economic impacts which have to be borne by the farm businesses affected (NAO Wales, 2003; Sheppard and Turner, 2005; University of Reading, 2004). These studies also identified important social impacts on the farm family and farm staff, with personal pressures arising from a number of sources including emotional responses to the loss of animals, concerns about the welfare implications of retaining stock on the farm, greater business uncertainty, the ‘hassle factor’ and frustration in the apparent lack of progress in controlling the disease. A further factor of particular relevance here concerns the changes recently made to the government’s compensation policy and the introduction of pre-movement testing for cattle (Defra, 2006).

The overall aim of the study is to provide an evidence base on the longer-term effects of a bTB breakdown on farm businesses, and so to inform policy development in the future control of bTB. As such, it will be concerned with two principal areas of longer-term impacts: those exhibited in adverse social/human health effects, and those economic effects within the farm business which extend over a period of many months or years, or even result in permanent changes (e.g. to farming system). The research will be pursued through a range of activities including desk-based economic modelling, empirical studies of farmers including the use of an established social/mental health questionnaire, and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including GPs.
Objective
Drawing on Defra’s published research requirements for this study, the overall aim of the study is to provide an evidence base on the longer-term effects of a bTB breakdown on farm businesses, and so to inform policy development in the future control of bTB. As such, it will be concerned with two principal areas of longer-term impacts: those exhibited in adverse social/human health effects, and those economic effects within the farm business which extend over a period of many months or years, or even result in permanent changes (e.g. to the farming system). The specific objectives of the project are as follows:

1) To make a summary review of the evidence from previous studies of the range and incidence of longer-term effects of a bTB breakdown. This review will encompass both socio-economic and human medical studies to provide a clear analysis of the major long-term problems so far identified for farmers, their families and work force.

2) Through primary research, to identify and, if possible, to rank the main factors associated with a bTB breakdown which are likely to result in long-term effects, on both the farm business and the people involved.

3) To provide broad estimates of the longer-term economic effects of a bTB breakdown in the context of a range of ‘farm system and bTB breakdown’ scenarios.

4) To provide a sound evidence base for a better understanding of the social and human health effects of a bTB breakdown at farm-level, including both the range and typical incidence of such adverse impacts.

5) To make recommendations to Defra on any adjustments to bTB policy instruments, which would be likely to minimise and/or mitigate at least some of these adverse effects.
Project Documents
• Final Report : SE3120 final report   (1598k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2007

To: 2008

Cost: £138,971
Contractor / Funded Organisations
ADAS UK Ltd., University - Exeter
Keywords
Animal Diseases              
Animal Health              
Bovine Tuberculosis              
Control              
Farm Business              
Plants and Animals              
Tuberculosis              
Fields of Study
Animal Health