19 April 2001
Starvation looms as feed runs out

By FWi staff

THE animal welfare crisis on farms caught up in foot-and-mouth disease infected areas is set to intensify as farmers run out of winter feed.

Food shortages have prompted the RSPCA to launch 10 regional schemes to help farmers get hold of much-needed feed, shelter, bedding and other supplies.

RSPCA chief officer of the inspectorate Tony Crittendon said foot-and-mouth had prompted the biggest farm-animal welfare crisis ever to hit the country.

“We have received a range of offers including transport, hay and wood chippings, and this scheme will make sure that RSPCA inspectors can help.”

Gordon Capstick, chairman of the National Farmers Union in Cumbria, said the situation would reach breaking point within the next fortnight.

Most of Cumbria is affected by livestock movement restrictions.

Farmers there have been heeding advice not to put their cattle out to graze because of increased risk of infection, Mr Capstick.

“Food stocks are running out and a lot of farmers are running short. There is no fodder and the straw that is still available is of very low quality,” he said.

Many over-wintered cattle in Cumbria have already spent an extra month indoors this year because of bad weather last autumn.

That has put an extra strain on feed stocks. Grass has been slow to grow this spring in fields near farms, which has added to problems.

In the New Forest, animals that have been taken off common grazing land back to farms have run out of fodder. Local pastures are waterlogged.

Such problems are compounded by backlogs in the governments welfare disposal scheme, which compensates farmers who cull their livestock.

A spokeswoman for the Intervention Board, which is running the scheme, said 4302 farmers have applied to enter 1.16 million animals into the scheme.

But only 289,165 of those animals have been slaughtered.

There are now 30 abattoirs in the scheme, although only 19 are in areas infected with foot-and-mouth disease, said the spokeswoman.

Getting approval for disposal sites for carcasses was a problem, she said.

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Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
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