9 March 2001

Prayers for an end to outbreak before harvest

Contractors around the

country are feeling the

impact of the foot-and-mouth

outbreak which took a grip

18 days ago. Andy Moore

spoke to three contractors

to see how their businesses

are faring

LIKE hundreds of contractors in the UK, Robert Self is hoping and praying the foot-and-mouth disease will be fully contained before he harvests 800ha (2000 acres) of grass silage in mid-April.

"We harvest and cart silage over 70 miles from the Essex border up to Norfolk, which would create a high risk of transmitting the disease," says Mr Self, who is based at Creeting St Mary, Suffolk. "Fortunately, our neighbouring dairy farms are well spread out, although there is a risk imposed from a number of nearby pig farms."

At the moment, Mr Self says he is minimising the risk of spreading the disease by keeping machinery in one place. Further measures have been to employ the least amount of machinery for each job and giving equipment a thorough wash down before entering and leaving fields.

Current work includes supplying men and tractors to operate carrot planting machinery on behalf of three large growers, together with tractors and trailers to perform a carrot haulage service.

"Luckily there is little risk of transmitting the disease by keeping tractors and operators on vegetable farms which have little or no contact with livestock units," adds Mr Self. "But we do have some concerns that there may have been a risk of picking up or transmitting the disease when hauling carrots."

Looking ahead, Mr Self says he has a cautious view over the coming weeks for contractors and farmers alike.

"My main fear is the spread of the disease will get worse rather than better," he says. "Three quarters of our income is derived from livestock farms and if the disease takes hold, the consequences could be disastrous." &#42

Suffolk contractor Robert Self believes the foot-and-mouth crisis could have a disastrous affect on his business which depends on livestock farmers.