16 March 2001

WALES

Braced for the worst scenario

LIVESTOCK producers in Wales are bracing themselves for more bad news. Last week, people were hoping that the disease might be under control west of Offas Dyke. Then it was confirmed in a dairy herd at The Ditches farm near Montgomery. Two days later it was found eight miles further west at Welshpool.

These outbreaks brought the number of sheep destroyed on nine Welsh farms to more than 5000. Almost 3500 contact carcasses have been burned at the Welsh Country Foods Abattoir at Gaerwen, Anglesey. The disease has led to the on-farm destruction of 1100 cattle. More deaths are certain to follow.

News of the westerly spread of the disease immediately fuelled fears about the vulnerability of all the 1.2m cattle, 7m sheep and 65,000 pigs in Wales, and previously low-level criticism of control measures increased sharply, especially delays in burning slaughtered stock.

Bob Parry, president of the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW), who farms just outside the exclusion zone around the abattoir at Gaerwen on Anglesey, expressed anger and disgust that 241 sheep and 155 cattle slaughtered at Llangaffo on the island had still not been burned five days later.

The union wants Britain to follow the example of France and use police to keep all non-essential people, including television crews, away from infected farms. Some reporters are still ignoring requests to stay away and the FUW believes there is also a risk when they stand at the entrance of infected farms.

Producers are desperately worried about the spread of the disease. Most of the calls to helplines have been about away-wintered stock. The general view is that most livestock cannot stay where it is and there is no enthusiasm for a mass cull.

Instead farmers want single licensed movements from clean and low risk areas to owners farms in similar areas. Where host farmers in high risk areas are prepared to keep sheep the suggestion is that the army and retired farmers and stockmen, and even the RSPCA, could be mobilised to feed and to lamb ewes.

Robert Davies