A LISBELLAW dairy farmer has said that being forced to cull dozens of milk cows because of bTB was a  "dark time" for him. 

Richard Dane, who milks around 75 cows outside Enniskillen, has lost a total of 35 cows in the past two years due to the disease. 

"They were very dark times, and they aren't over yet," said Mr. Dane, as he recounted having to load otherwise healthy dairy cows, yielding over 10 gallons a day onto a trailer for slaughter. 

"A farmer has an attachment to his cows. I remember remarking that the cows were never looking as well, a real picture. 

"The next day they are away down the lane to the factory to be culled. There's nothing you can do about it. It has an impact on you."

The Danes have been battling bTB since January 2022, and numerous tests have revealed more reactors that must be culled. On one test alone, 16 cows were positive. 

And if this wasn't bad enough, due to the high number of reactors, DAERA restricted Mr. Dane from buying new cows, leading to a sharp drop in milk production. 

Impartial Reporter: A prized cow belonging to Richard Dane that had to be culled after becoming infected with bTB.A prized cow belonging to Richard Dane that had to be culled after becoming infected with bTB. (Image: Richard Dane.)

"It was a tough day knowing that 16 cows were going to be culled," he said.

"Then you get the phone call from the department that we had crossed the threshold, and couldn't buy in any cows in. 

"That was a loss of milk production from 16 cows that couldn't be replaced. It meant a direct drop in income.

"Farming is a business like any other, and bTB completely takes away your control of things. You have no say in what you want to sell or keep. It's a real burden."

While in November, things began to look up after two clear tests reopened the herd but then, Mr. Dane received a phone call out of the blue to inform him that a single heifer he had sold had tested positive for bTB.

Just like that, the herd was closed up again. 

Mr. Dane agreed that these factors started to take a mental toll on him but he is thankful that he was able to lean on the support of his family and friends. 

He explained: "It's a stress, without a doubt, but I also have a full-time job outside the farm, four healthy kids and am happily married. I have other things to think about.

"However, for those in a different situation, who are farming full-time and are maybe on their own, I can totally see how it would weigh on you more. You can see why farmers might be driven to doing something stupid. It takes a mental toll."

For the Danes, while bTB has caused both financial and emotional stress, there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

On Saturday, April 20, a clear test was read on the farm, meaning the herd is once again open for business. Young stock can again be sold, easing financial pressures. It has been a long time coming. 

"We are glad to be open again, but you wonder for how long," Mr. Dane said. "As a farmer, you are always living in fear of the next test."