Brunsdon, John (b.1929)
Veterinary surgeon John Brunsdon joined the Glastonbury practice of Bryan Fletcher as an assistant in 1952, after attending the Royal Veterinary College in London from 1947 until 1952.

Much of his work was involved with the elimination of tuberculosis and brucilosis in cattle. By regularly testing the cattle and treating those infected the diseases were eliminated in the national herd. Later he encountered foot-and-mouth disease and also BSE. When he began work infections were spread among herds by the hands of milkers; in later years problems with dairy cattle were often associated with the stresses caused by intensive milking.
Sound File
Listen to John Brunsdon - 1.67MB Duration 3:38 min.

AH: Are there different diseases within the, the three types of, of cattle you’ve mentioned?

JB: The, they, no. Basically all breeds of cattle seem to get the same diseases and there are certain hereditary things that go wrong in certain breeds, but they’re not really, they’re not, not infectious diseases.

AH: What type of infectious diseases did you see?

JB: Infectious diseases? Well, there’s been an increase in the virus, respiratory virus type of disease, again related to the, to the intensification and housing of cattle. It’s like housing people. If you keep them out in, in the fresh air a lot, they’ll get far fewer respiratory problems, and if you put them in factories and stuffy underground stations and this sort of thing.

Talking about viruses, of course, we had foot-and-mouth disease in Glastonbury which was quite a dramatic business. Back in the 1960s there was a nasty outbreak and it, there, there had been a, a recent case in the, the Mendip Hospital dairy herd, and we were all on edge as to whether it was gonna spread further this way. And actual fact it, it occurred in a group of heifers on Common Moor here, and farmer Snell’s herd, two brothers farming down there, very sad business.

The division of work was such that one brother milked the cows, and the other brother looked after the heifers, fed them but also handled the dairy equipment. In those days, there were churns going backwards and forwards each day to the dairies, and this was the way that the milk was transported, on the back of lorries, lines and lines of churns, and it was feared that a, a, a churn came back, a contaminated churn came back from the, the dairy, was handled by one brother who also handled the food that was fed to the heifers.

And the unfortunate animal I, I was called to see was an absolute text-book case, standing apart from its fellows, with saliva drooling from its mouth, making the characteristic sort of smacking noise, noise which they did and terrible ulceration in the mouth. And I reported it immediately, and the farm was all sealed off, and by the next day the, the rest of the heifers were showing signs, but unfortunately, the whole herd was taken, cows as well, the cows hadn’t yet got infected but the chance was of being infected, was so, so high. We lost that herd in Glastonbury but it didn’t spread anywhere else, fortunately, because it was quickly diagnosed and drastic steps were taken to eliminate it, but I think that was probably my most traumatic experience with, with infectious diseases in, in cattle.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in November 1989. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.