Friday 13th.  Not that I’m superstitious. I just happened to be clasping onto pieces of wood, crossing my fingers (and toes) and nonchalantly chucking salt over my left shoulder.

Back in January Robert came into my office waving a piece of paper “Do you know anything about this?”

I looked up “No, don’t think so. What is it?”

“It’s a thing from Animal Health notifying us we’re to go onto six monthly TB testing because we’re contiguous.”

“Oh? Strange? We’ve been contiguous for ever.” Puzzled, I reached out for the piece of paper “I wonder why now?” I looked at the dates stipulated. “That’s a bugger – we’ll have just started calving. If that’s the case we’ll most probably throw up some inconclusives at the very least.” Inconclusive reactors are animals that develop lumps inbetween negative and positive; these animals have to be re-tested after six weeks.

A theory, not scientifically proven, is that animals who are suffering stress – such as those that are bulling, calving, carrying a burden of liver fluke or worms – are more likely to react unfavourably to the tuberculin skin test.

A shiver runs down my spine “But looking on the bright side” I say optimistically “I guess it means that we have sixty days to sell stock when it’s most wanted without doing a pre-movement test at our expense. If we go clear.”

To try and control the spread of TB you are allowed to move stock within sixty day of a test. If you want to move stock outside the sixty days of a routine TB surveillance test you have to pay yourself to have the animals tested.

I phoned the vets to arrange dates. It was decided – the 10th March for the test and the 13th to read the test.

So on Tuesday Sally, our vet, arrived to do the first round. Then we wait. We wait three sick-making days. I have to restrain myself from compulsively running my hands over the necks of the cattle. Then on Friday, Friday 13th, Sally returned to read the test. As always I feel ill. As always Olly says to me “I know we’ll go clear.” I wish I had his confidence.

It worked – all the touching of wood, throwing of salt and crossing of fingers – reprieve, reprieve, reprieve…we went clear. Not that I’m superstitious of course.