31 August 2001

Co-operate or else warning

LIVESTOCK farmers who refuse to co-operate with foot-and-mouth tests have been accused of putting at risk Devons ambition of disease-free status. The south-west England branches of the NFU and National Beef Association both urged members to co-operate after a request from DEFRA officials.

Robert Deane, NFU spokesman, said it was reasonable to give weather-dependent seasonal work initial priority over blood testing in the short-term. But he urged co-operation with the procedure, pointing out that having negative results has some advantages when selling stock.

Mr Deane said flock owners concerned about DEFRA staff carrying the virus should ask to be visited early in the day, and demand to inspect clothing, footwear and vehicles for cleanliness before allowing officials on to the premises.

But Maurice Vellacott, a farmer on Exmoor, suggested F&M free status is also being put at risk by the number of livestock being imported into Devon and Cornwall for slaughter. &#42

He said: "I understand livestock is travelling there from St Boswells in Scotland and from Cumbria as well as Wales and the Midlands.

"No doubt if foot and mouth does reappear in the south west it will be farmers who are blamed. But surely there are enough fat lambs in the immediate area to meet demand? The sourcing from further afield must be to keep the price down."