4 July 2001
Virus blood results ‘encouraging’
By Robert Davies, Wales Correspondent
PRELIMINARY results of blood tests for foot-and-mouth in 800 sheep grazing common land in the Brecon Beacons are negative.
Carwyn Jones, Waless rural affairs minister, reported what he called “encouraging first indications” in a meeting with farming leaders on Wednesday (4 July).
Farmers Union of Wales president Bob Parry said afterwards: “Hopefully this suggests that we may have caught the disease just in time.”
Mr Jones was told that farmers grazing 40,000 sheep on commons in south Powys were living on a knife-edge, and agreed to release results as soon as possible.
The leaders were told that veterinary investigators had failed to trace the source of recent cluster of five confirmed cases at Libanus south of Brecon.
But it appeared that the disease could have been present – but undetected – in the area for several weeks.
The meeting agreed that if foot-and-mouth was found on common land, stock should be culled, rather than vaccinated as some graziers proposed.
“There are too many negatives for vaccination to be on the agenda,” said National Farmers Union Cymru-Wales president Hugh Richards.
Livestock marketing problems and the financial and welfare implications of cancelled autumn sales of breeding and store sheep dominated the meeting.
Mr Jones meets ministers from Northern Ireland and Scotland for talks with UK secretary of state Margaret Beckett later on Wednesday.
He was pressed to put the case for a package of measures. “The situation could be catastrophic,” said Mr Parry.
“We in Wales will have to find outlets for over one million lightweight hill lambs that would normally be exported.
“The average price of all lambs has already started to slide, and we have no idea how far it could go.”
The leaders agreed that all options, including retail sales promotion, a freezing scheme, and even buying up for destruction must be considered.
Later on Wednesday FUW members from north Wales warned Welsh Assembly members that the industry is close to meltdown.
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