7 September 2001

Forage crisis move

GOVERNMENT officials are making plans to tackle the forage crisis threatening to ruin cattle farms caught up in foot-and-mouth movement restrictions, cattle industry leaders say.

National Beef Association chairman, Robert Robinson, claims DEFRA is going to call a meeting "within the next two weeks" to assess how to get forage to farms that run out of food.

Breeding farms face bankruptcy and an animal welfare crisis over the winter unless the government intervened soon, he said. Movement restrictions in F&M infected areas are keeping thousands of suckled calves and breeding heifers on farms that would have left in the autumn. Over 28,000 weaned calves are stuck in Powys alone, the NBA says.

Some farmers under Form D restriction have already run out of food and thousands of animals faced starvation, Mr Robinson said. Farmers are also running out of accommodation.

The NBA asked junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty to introduce a forage/accommodation rescue plan at the end of August.

Mr Robinson said a civil servant had been appointed to look at the issue and was now expected to call a meeting within the next two weeks. If it goes ahead, it will bring together farming, veterinary, haulage and livestock market organisations which could combine to tackle the problem. &#42

A DEFRA spokesman confirmed that the issue was under review, but could not confirm whether a meeting would take place.

The NBA wants the government to work with the industry to relocate cattle where possible and bring forage on to farms where movement is not allowed. The biggest source of forage would be the 9000 farms that had had stock culled out, Mr Robinson said.