By Jeremy Hunt

FINDING enough dairy cattle to restock Cumbria farms with sentinel animals that test whether foot-and-mouth is still present on a farm is proving an impossible task.

Auctioneer Chris Dodds, of Penrith Farmers and Kidds, says there are just too few dairy cattle in Cumbria and neighbouring counties to meet the needs of sentinel stocking.

This means a costly delay for many of the regions dairy farmers who cannot start the process of moving back into milk production, even though sufficient time has elapsed on their holdings.

Sentinel animals must account for 25% of the previous herd total. If they blood test negative after four weeks these holdings are safe to restock.

Alternatively, farms can remain free of all animals for four months after DEFRA has issued them with the “green light” FM7 notice, and then restock.

Most Cumbria farms are taking this option, hoping that cattle will be allowed into the county from other areas at the end of the period.

Recent weeks have seen more Cumbria dairy farmers “staking their claim” on herds outside the county. The trend is toward forward buying, and negotiating a contractual agreement with the vendor.

Auctioneers say there is no shortage of cattle and buyers should not panic. Prices vary with some firms still offering stock at 800-950 for calved heifers. Others say registered Holsteins with good milk records are making 1300-1500.