6 June 1997

Will NMR records help MAFF speed up cull?

MAFF hopes to speed up the selective cull by using National Milk Records computer system which holds records for 56% of the dairy cattle in England and Wales.

Cohort tracing has currently been restricted only to cattle that have never moved from the farm on which they were born. But, at a meeting with NFU president Sir David Naish, farm minister Jack Cunningham accepted that trying to trace cattle that had moved from farm to farm would slow the process even further.

MAFF had already contacted NMR to see if its database could be used, Sir David said. For cows involved in the milk recording scheme the computer would be able to identify where they were, cutting out the need for MAFF to follow a paper chase throughfarms and markets.

Julian Bryan, NMR marketing and sales development executive, confirmed that discussions with MAFF were under way. "Our first concern is to assist our customers, and if we can do that by providing the information the ministry requires then thats what well do," he said.

But no information would be released to MAFF without the consent of individual farmers.

Sir David said that Dr Cunningham had suggested another way to hasten the cull. Time could be saved if farmers were prepared voluntarily to appoint just one valuer, from a MAFF- approved list, rather than trying to arrange for two valuers and a vet to be on the farm at the same time.

The minister had said that no decisions had yet been taken about whether the selective cull should be extended to take account of maternal transmission of BSE. Discussions between MAFF and the EU Commission were continuing but no conclusion had yet been reached, Sir David said.

Latest Intervention Board figures show that 4925 cohorts have been culled in the UK. Another 9306 animals have been traced, of which 966 have been served with slaughter notices.