16 March 2001

F&Msecurity takes knock

FARMERS are questioning the effectiveness of foot-and-mouth controls after a cow escaped from an infected farm while animals were being slaughtered.

The animal fled to a dairy farm in Owlethirst, Cumbria, where farmer Billy Robinson discovered it among his cows. Mr Robinson now faces an anxious wait while MAFF officials decide whether his stock must also be slaughtered

In the meantime, his case has been taken up by the David Smith, chairman of the National Sheep Association (NSA). Mr Smith has written to farm minister Nick Brown, claiming that MAFF officials neither pursued the animal nor made an effort at the time to contact neighbouring producers.

"If such standards are a reflection of how the whole operation is being conducted then, quite frankly, it will be a very long time before we are rid of this scourge. I believe the Ministry should know that the distress it has inflicted is considerable. There has been a substantial loss of confidence in the entire operation in the locality as a result."

Mr Robinson discovered the cow among his milking herd at 7pm last Saturday (Mar 10) but said he had absolutely no idea where it came from. At 9am the next day he learned that the animal had escaped from an infected farm and was told that a MAFF team would come to destroy it.

By that time the animal had spent the night with four of Mr Robinsons cattle as it was too upset to remain in isolation. The animal was slaughtered and taken away by its owner in a disinfected trailer. MAFF was unable to comment on the incident.