More culls likely as tests continue
By Johann Tasker
MORE sheep are likely to be killed as farmers anxiously await test results for foot-and-mouth disease in flocks across northern England and Wales.
Officials in Wales are extending their blood-testing programme to thousands more sheep following a second mass cull in the Brecon Beacons.
Blood-testing of hefted hill flocks will be stepped up in Wales on Wednesday (1 August) and it is likely more sheep will be found to have antibodies.
The testing policy was widened as the slaughter of about 1500 sheep was given the go-ahead on Tuesday (31 July) just days after a cull of 4000 animals.
Although testing initially centred on farms around Libanus, testing teams are now moving towards higher land and pushing out towards more flocks.
Glyn Davies, chairman of the Welsh Assembly rural affairs committee, said the virus had spread further into the Beacons than previously confirmed.
He added: “It is likely to be spread much further still.
More results from tests already conducted are expected imminently. Testing will continue as officials try to eradicate all signs of the disease.
Sheep with antibodies are unlikely to pass on foot-and-mouth. But the existence of antibodies makes it difficult to gain disease-free status.
The cull is likely to renew pressure for vaccination from welfare campaigners and some farmers who have opposed the mass slaughter of livestock.
In England, up to 50,000 sheep are being tested for foot-and-mouth disease on farms around Thirs, North Yorkshire.
Officials are desperately trying to stop the disease from spreading into the national pig herd. About 8600 pigs have been slaughtered over the last few days.
Meanwhile, in Cumbria, more than 80,000 sheep are being blood-tested amid concern that foot-and-mouth may have spread to previously unaffected areas.
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