Foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey stuns farming community

Confirmation of foot and mouth disease in cattle on a UK farm has stunned farmers from across the country.

DEFRA confirmed late on Friday night (4 August) that the disease had been confirmed on a farm near Guilford in Surrey.

A nationwide movement ban was immediately put in place. A 10km surveillance zone has also been set up around the infected premises.

Writing on the FWi forums, contributor ‘do it today’ said that a repeat of the 2001 crisis did not bear thinking about.

Bambi1234567 replied: “The scenes shown on TV [of pyres] were unforgivable – we cannot have a repeat of 2001. I’m glad the government is taking this seriously. Let’s all pray this is an isolated incident.”

Crazysheep pointed out that the timing of the outbreak would have big implications for agricultural shows.

“We’re right in the middle of the show season which for many breeders is their shop window.

“Many show organisers have been wringing their hands about the weather, now the loss of livestock classes will be a double whammy.”

Read what other farmers are saying about the outbreak and join the discussion on the FWiSpace forums 

“I can’t believe it,” said Farmers Weekly’s south-western Barometer farmer and contractor Troy Stuart on hearing the news following most of the night on a tractor helping bring in the harvest on his farm near Exeter.

Although he runs cattle and the movement ban will prevent him buying in stock replacements, he is fully in favour of it.

“We don’t show anything. It’s the sensible thing to do if it can stop it [the disease] in its tracks. I’d rather take the pain first rather than still be worrying months from now.”

Sussex-based former FW Barometer farmer Tim Lock, who also runs a 190-cow dairy farm near Dorking close to the protection and exclusion zones, said: “This is the last thing we need, just as we were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“We’re just about to start calving, and we’d soon be selling off some of the beef-cross calves. Now we’ll be forced to rear the extra ones ourselves.”

George Hosford from Dorset also described the news as distressing. “It’s going to annoy a lot of people with livestock at the shows.”

The big question on producers’ lips is where the disease might have come from. Some are asking whether it is connected with imports of meat from areas like South America.

Producers are also highlighting that the farm in question is close to the Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright – a research centre which specialises in infectious diseases including foot and mouth.

To find out how the movment ban is affecting shows and sales visit the Taking Stock blog.