9 March 2001

Business under threat

DEVON contractor Mike Wakeham says he has concerns for the future of his business and mixed farm customer base since the foot-and-mouth outbreak reared its ugly head.

He is just 25 miles from Okehampton, in the vicinity of an outbreak the week before last.

"We have been muck spreading and chain harrowing on six farms over the past 30 days so there is a chance we came into contact with the disease," says Mr Wakeham.

He believes he has been vigilant in ensuring the disease does not spread by cleaning tractors and machinery meticulously with disinfectant.

Further safety measures have included placing bales soaked in disinfectant in gateways and entrances – despite difficulties obtaining straw and chemicals.

"Disinfectant and straw is becoming hard to get hold of in this part of the country as producers turn to panic buying."

In addition, he says he has fears for the forthcoming silage season in which the firm plans to cut and bale 486ha (1200 acres) of first cut silage in early May.

"In the worst scenario we might not be allowed on the land to cut silage," he says. "And looking on the really black side, demand for silage could be less due to animals being destroyed or farmers going out of business." &#42