23 November 2001

Cumbrian farm restocks with care after F&M

By Jeremy Hunt

North-west correspondent

ITS seven months since foot-and-mouth struck the Wannop familys Cumbrian dairy herd, but now their farm has become one of the first in the county to restock with sentinel animals.

To comply with DEFRAs restocking regulations, newly arrived cows at the Wannop familys unit at Linstock Castle, Carlisle, had to populate all pens previously occupied by stock, from cubicles to calving boxes.

These 100 test cows arrived in early September and have since completed the four-week sentinel stocking procedure which culminated in a DEFRA blood test. Thankfully, these tests proved negative for F&M antibodies.

Vets made a weekly visual check on the herd. "We have also kept a close eye on them, but once you have seen F&M you would never miss spotting it again," says Alistair Wannop.

"To make the procedure effective, its important to allow the farm to bring in enough animals in this first stage of restocking to populate all buildings.

"It would have been impossible for us to achieve that part of the procedure if we had been restricted to bringing in 20% of the original herd."

Sentinel stock were all from one herd. A second herd and another group of 60 cows have also been bought by Mr Wannop to restock the farm. But, despite having been given the all-clear by DEFRA, he has no idea how long it will be before he can take delivery of the remaining cows hes agreed to buy.

In fact, it was only by a stroke of luck that he was allowed to bring home the first herd of 100 milking cows from Worcs to act as sentinels.

"DEFRA issued our FM7 on Aug 21, which meant we could bring sentinel animals on to the farm after 21 days. We applied for a licence to move the herd from Worcs with only a window of four days to do it in, before DEFRAs new autumn movement restrictions were imposed.

"Under the autumn movement restrictions no livestock can be brought in to or out of Cumbria," says Mr Wannop.

He is pressing hard, through the NFU, for DEFRA to rethink its policy on stock movements into Cumbria and was part of the delegation from the county that met Prof David King in London during October.

"Producers given the green light to restock are at a serious disadvantage when they cant source stock from outside the county. There just arent the animals available in Cumbria, so producers are forced to wait even longer before they start up in business again."

Driven by the decision to re-establish the herd at the earliest opportunity, Mr Wannop made grass silage as usual in readiness for restocking.

Then there was the mid summer flare up of F&M in the Penrith spur. This was a set-back for the whole county, but it didnt deter efforts to secure replacement dairy cows for Linstock Castle.

In July two complete herds of pedigree Holsteins were bought from Worcs and Oxon.

"Our priority was production and type, but there has to be a compromise when youre buying a large number of animals in a sellers market. NMR records verified yields and we checked up on TB tests, cell counts and the herds vaccination programme."

In addition to avoiding the risks to herd health, likely to result from buying in small groups of cows from many sources, a whole herd already has the benefit of an established hierarchy.

"Thats a big advantage. As the pecking order moves with the herd, youre minimising potential stress caused by moving to a new environment."

When cows were moved, they were milked in Worcs in the morning and travelled north in four wagons for afternoon milking at Linstock Castle. Mr Wannop also bought-in a supply of the herds concentrate mix to ease the transition to their new location.

"We were advised to get cows home in daylight to help them settle in to their new surroundings. They adapted quickly, but I think the next herd to arrive will have to be run separately for a week or two to avoid the inevitable bullying."

Because the first herd contained mature cows as well as calved heifers, Mr Wannop believes older cows have helped settle the herd.

"Just moving 100 cows to and from milking and to different pastures can be difficult when they dont know where theyre going. But if you had a new herd of 100 freshly calved heifers bought from various sources Ill bet that could be quite a challenge." &#42

WANNOPS SENTINELS

&#8226 Bought from Worcs.

&#8226 Populated all buildings.

&#8226 Now tested F&M free.