Exclusive: F&M farmer speaks out

The farmer at the heart of the latest case of foot-and-mouth disease has spoken exclusively to Farmers Weekly following the confirmation of the outbreak on his farm in Surrey.

Rob Lawrence and his wife Katie spent 25 years establishing a herd of 150 Aberdeen Angus suckler cows at Hardwick Park Farm, Chertsey, before last week’s events decimated their life’s work.

Mr Lawrence first suspected foot-and-mouth disease during routine inspection on Tuesday evening (11 September). The cattle demonstrated typical symptoms such as slobbering mouths and the picking-up of feet.

He notified DEFRA who dispatched veterinary surgeons to make a formal inspection but, by this point it was too dark to make an accurate diagnosis. So precautionary restrictions were imposed and the vets returned early the following morning.

After close inspection a DEFRA official informed Mr Lawrence that all animals on the holding, amounting to about 350 cows and followers, were to be culled. A further 65 animals at his main holding were also culled as a precaution.

“I believe they are also in the process of slaughtering at a neighbouring farm,” he told FW on Tuesday.

All guidance and movement restrictions introduced since the first outbreak had been observed he said. “We have been careful not to make movements between holdings in previous weeks, in light of the proximity of the last outbreak and the nature of our holding.”

The couple are uncertain if they will restock their 160ha (400 acres) farm due to the emotional turmoil inflicted following their loss.

“I haven’t got a business at the moment. After this, I don’t think we will ever keep cattle again.

“The real tragedy, apart from the culling, is the fact that our two little boys’ lives are going to change forever.

“George and Lonnie loved working with cattle, something they will perhaps not get the chance to do at Hardwick Park Farm again,” he said.

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