24 August 2001

Still under cosh & struggling to farm

FARMERS here in North Yorkshire still face enormous pressure. They struggle to farm while coping with stringent cleaning and disinfection rules. Negative test results on thousands of sheep have partly allayed fears about the disease. But that is little comfort to producers around Thirsk, where new cases are still being found.

Special biosecurity measures enforced by the police are supported by farmers who want the disease stamped out. But cleaning and disinfecting slurry tankers and farm vehicles as if they were being prepared for a hospital operating theatre is a real headache. Difficulties are enormous and often add three or four hours to an already hectic working day.

Movement restrictions are also causing big worries, particularly as autumn approaches. Only a handful of producers have been able to afford new buildings to house the extra livestock they are carrying.

Brewers grains are being snapped up the minute they leave the brewery and feedstuff prices have been hiked up in response to growing demand. But it seems that silage quality has been generally good and the predicted shortages of bulk feeds have not been as desperate as might have been expected.

Further north, the Newcastle Disease Emergency Control Centre has set up a special office to offer advice on grant aid for future business development. But for most people the future is something they do not have time to think about.

Communication has never been so important in farming. The crisis has brought neighbours closer together to pool resources and share information. It is no exaggeration to say that it has brought back echoes of wartime, with people banding together in times of trouble.

For farmers virtually trapped on farms, the desperate need for information has also highlighted the benefits of the internet. Many farmers have found themselves dusting off computers and getting sons or daughters to teach them to surf.

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Cases to date 299

First case Feb 23 (Northumberland)

Last case Aug 18 (North Yorks)

Max daily cases 7 on Apr 1

Source: DEFRA. Position at 17.00 Aug 20.