29 November 1996

Accelerated cull already undertaken

THE UK may have already met the terms of the Florence agreement for an accelerated cull, according to Prof Roy Anderson of Oxford University.

He told a meeting in London on Tuesday that the accelerated cull "may well have been fulfilled within the over 30-month scheme".

But he was unable to say precisely whether the BSE cohorts (those born on the same farm at the same time as a BSE case) had been taken out because the ages of the cattle slaughtered in the OTMS had not been recorded. If that had been done it would have been possible to carry out a precise calculation.

Older cohorts were more likely to carry BSE infection and a more effective way of organising the OTMS would have been to bring forward the older animals for culling first, he added.

Infection down

But if the OTMS scheme was continued it may be possible to take the level of BSE infection in the herd down to a very low level by mid 1988.

And he calculated that there were just 150-250 under 30-month cattle remaining in the national herd that may have BSE.

MAFF expert John Wilesmith agreed that one of the difficulties with the OTMS was that experts did not have the ages of the animals culled. He said he believed this was "just an oversight".

"We have asked for the ages to be recorded and that has been taken note of," he added.

But the ages of cattle slaughtered in the OTMS have been recorded in Northern Ireland using a computerised tracing system. The Rev Ian Paisley told a recent Commons debate that he had checked the figures and found that 400 of the 1700 cattle covered by the accelerated cull in the province had been slaughtered. "About 1300 beasts stand in the way of our meeting the Florence requirements for a cull," he said.

&#8226 More than 1m cattle will have been slaughtered in the OTMS by today (Friday), according to farm minister Douglas Hogg. A target weekly slaughter rate of 55,000 animals had been comfortably exceeded in recent weeks and the registered backlog in England and Wales should be cleared "within a very short period".