Farmers supportive of foot and mouth movement ban despite difficulties

Farmers are relieved that DEFRA has introduced a livestock movement ban so quickly following confirmation of a foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Hard though it would be, particularly for farmers with livestock tied up at shows, Farmers Weekly Farmer Focus writer David Greasby was “totally supportive” of the immediate foot and mouth movement ban.

“It’s a really good step,” he said. “That’s what went wrong last time.”

He admitted that he was fortunate in having already sent all this season’s lambs from his 300-ewe flock away from his Oxfordshire farm before yesterday’s announcement.

“We were all worrying about blue tongue, and now we have this!”

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For more reaction read: Foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey stuns farming community

Farmers Weekly farmer Focus writer Andrew Peddie said he was fully in favour of the foot and mouth movement ban even though it would create problems for his 250-sow outdoor pig operation in Fife.

“It’s a good thing and I’m pleased that it’s been introduced so quickly.”

His main concern was that retailers might soon turn to mainland Europe for supplies caused by any UK hiccups.

“We only have 24 suckler cows, but we produce 100 pigs a week, and I had 180 due to leave the farm on Monday for bacon. Now the danger is that they’ll become overweight. One week wouldn’t make a great deal of difference, but depending on how long the ban goes on, we might start to lose out on our contracts.”

Once buyers looked elsewhere to replace supplies denied them by foot and mouth restrictions, it could be hard to win them back, he feared.

Although the foot and mouth movement ban would not immediately affect Farmers Weekly Barometer farmer Nigel Horne for the time being, he said news of the Surrey find was “very worrying”.

He runs 200 breeding ewes with their lambs in Berkshire.

“We didn’t have any movements planned, and the ban must be sensible. Let’s just hope it’s an isolated outbreak and not an epidemic.”

But he said the latest news reinforced his views on DEFRA’s fallen livestock scheme.

“It really does make you question whether we shouldn’t be considering more the wisdom of the burial ban, especially when you consider how many carcasses have been dragged around the country to renderers and hunt kennels in the past days.”

Foot and mouth confirmation in Surrey was described by former Farmers Weekly Barometer farmer Andrew Goodman as “a bolt out of the blue” and “another hammer blow for the industry”.

Operations on his own business in Worcester, which includes a large goose-rearing unit, were unlikely to be seriously disrupted by the national movement ban, he believed.

“We only have a few cattle. But it will obviously affect people trying to attend sales and there are still a lot of shows going on.”

Looking on the positive side he pointed out that the livestock known to be infected by the latest foot and mouth disease were cattle. “They are far more traceable than sheep, so hopefully it can be contained in Surrey.

“The big question must be where did the disease come from in the first place?”

Former Farmers Weekly Barometer farmer Chris Salisbury said he was thankful he had abandoned dairying in Somerset, for economic reasons, 10 months ago.

“I know I’m being selfish, but if I still had the 200 cows I’d be panicking.”

That said the latest foot and mouth movement ban would hit him hard should it continue for more than a few months.

“We have 150 of other people’s beef cattle here on a bed-and-breakfast basis, and we certainly don’t have enough forage to keep them going through the winter.

“We do also have sheep. But I’m not panicking until I know more about how long the ban’s likely to last. If the disease spreads it would have severe implications.”

For the latest information and advice see the FWi foot-and-mouth special report page.