Bluetongue (blue tongue) outbreak threatens disaster for south east sheep farmers

The declaration of a bluetongue (blue tongue) outbreak spells disaster for many of the south east’s sheep flocks as farmers are unable to move sheep to traditional winter grazing.

The situation is so dire, the region’s largest sheep farmer says unless he is able to move some stock next week he will have no option but to cull and bury some sheep on the farm.

Rye, East Sussex-based Frank Langrish has more than 4000 excess sheep on his farm which should have been sent away to winter keep or sold to other breeders and finishers already. “Unless something is done this week we’ll have to cull some to save some grass for the rest. Most of the away wintering for the flock is outside the bluetongue zone, so there’s no chance of them going there at all this year.”

Mr Langrish has tried to find slaughter outlets for some animals, but capacity in the zone is at full stretch and a large number of the sheep aren’t fit to kill yet anyway.

“We have made the decision that, with or without government help, we will begin killing sheep and burying them on farm from the end of next week unless someone comes up with a workable option where we can save them.

“Our main and last priority is to save our core breeding flock that has been built up over the last 100 years so we can at least hope that we can still have some business next year. This is not melodrama it is a serious consideration of all of the options as we see it.”

Farmers Weekly Awards 2021

Enter or nominate today