February / March
Date sent: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 15:28:20 -0000
It's not good. I'm not sure I would call it an epidemic yet, since that implies it's widespread. The RISK of infection is very high with F&M and when lorries/trucks travel to and from abbatoirs, which is where this outbreak was spotted, then there are wide areas to check even though there may be no disease there, simply because the truck can cover many miles. EG, if they're checking that wagon from Northern Ireland, that could be where the disease is actually active (I'm not saying it is of course!!). If it is confined to smaller areas, that will be tough for people moving livestock there but elsewhere normal precautions should be OK. If it's found over a wider area, we could see very poor turnouts of any animals in shows this summer because of movement restrictions. And of course it's disastrous for British farm incomes which are already forcing many farmers to quit who have held out desperately for five years against falling prices and were just hoping that the Continental "discovery" of BSE would for once work in our favour. They don't have the financial buffer any more to keep holding on. The small consolation is that F&M's a disease only of cloven hoofed animals. I checked Mr T and his feet are definitely the all in one model.
Date sent: Thu, 1 Mar 2001 18:11:47 -0000
From what I understand, horses don't get FMD but like anyone or anything they can physically transport the virus on their bodies. We have two suspected cases within 20 miles of us and some of the Lakes farms are just closing their doors, footpaths and farm gates to all visitors. Even my husband's hay and straw wagon (truck) is only welcome if its wheels are sprayed with disinfectant before and after a farm visit to deliver or load up. I think he's going to have to buy some wellington boots (things he hates 'cos they heat his ankles too much) so he can spray them off before he gets back in the cab. Footpaths, as I say, are being closed - it depends very much on the commonsense of visitors not to cross farmland. The college where I work which has a farm has declared all the buildings out of bounds and if we live on farms we are supposed to leave our "farm clothes" at home and preferably not take our cars onto our farms either (not always a very practical proposition). Straw soaked in disinfectant is laid at the only unblocked entrance so car wheels get soaked on arrival. As far as horsey activities go, we're keeping to the roads (which I would do anyway at this time of year since the ground is always too soft for us to be welcome on the fields). Hunting is stopped, racing too. A Driving Society meeting planned for Friday evening at George Bowman's has been cancelled too, which seemed the wise thing to do. A neighbour of one of our hay merchants has suspected FMD on his farm. We just have to stay away. I don't want to see those long lines of dead animals stacked on heaped wood and coal and smell that awful smell of burning on my farm or my neighbours'. The disease seems to be associated with sheep and sheep dealers in this outbreak.
What I want to know is where did this Asiatic strain of FMD get into Britain? it doesn't just jump up and bite you out of nowhere. The Irish case confirmed today came from a bunch of sheep exported to Ireland under a false name. Who ever would believe that sheep could be smuggled? Yet that's what seems to have happened. When we were farming I hated the hassle of the Ministry of Agriculture systems for ear-tagging cattle from a few days old, but at least it has had some use in tracing livestock movements these last 2 weeks.
Date sent: Fri, 2 Mar 2001 18:45:53 -0000
We have no livestock of our own that could be infected but there are sheep on our 14 acres which belong to a neighbour. We know they have not been moved or in contact with infected stock. However our college just outside Penrith is within a new "infected area" - ie, a 5 mile radius of an outbreak confirmed yesterday afternoon. So our farm's and the college's entrance both have straw buffers laid down which are soaked in a Ministry-approved disinfectant so that traffic in and out is treated, on the wheels anyway. We have to dip our shoes/boots and try to leave "home" outdoor clothing at home. On the whole we are just trying to avoid too much human-instigated transport of infection. The possibility of airborne transport, or via wildlife, is still there. You can't prevent everything, but sensible precautions can still be taken. Our students who live on farms are being asked to stay (and work... fond hope!) at home for 2 weeks, residential students are advised to remain on-campus, and town-based students are advised to continue as normal. Printouts from the Ministry website are photocopied and left in piles in public areas of the College. People living on farms where infection has been confirmed are not being prevented from moving about, just told to adhere to Ministry advice in the matter of disinfection before they do so.
Date received: Tue, 06 Mar 2001 14:06:53 -0500
Subject: [FellPony] Export/Import Ban ............. I received an e-mail today from a Dales pony breeder with the following news: Dales pony colleagues in Canada report they have confirmed that the Ministries of Agriculture for U.K., U.S. and Canada have imposed a full ban on EXPORTS by the English/European governments as well as an IMPORT ban by the Canadian and U.S. government (took effect in the case of Canada mid day yesterday). Dales pony colleagues in U.K. have advised that ALL species in affected areas are threatened with extermination, and those who recall the last outbreak of foot and mouth in the 60's said it was a LONG long time before these bans were lifted. So, sadly, there will be no imports until further notice. If this is true and I have no reason to believe its not, this puts a terrible damper on Fell importations. More importantly, it could mean, with Dales being as rare as they are - only several hundred I'm told - this could actually devastate their breed. It would be none too healthy for our Fells either. Can any of you folks in the Lake District elaborate on the situation?
I have not heard this one about the Dales. I did hear specifically that although there is F&M in Devon, there is NO PLAN to cull the Dartmoor herds. The Ministry have certainly permitted ponies to be moved in our area (I know someone who was allowed, when she asked the Ministry, to move her ponies from winter grazing to her home). But some cattle movements which were detected at dead of night are going to be heavily penalised in the courts. I have NOT heard of any horses or ponies under threat of destruction, only the Dartmoor fears being denied firmly. I think there is some misinformation going about. For instance, I don't recall ponies being slaughtered in the 1967 outbreak and I don't think it will come to that now. I was an impressionable teenager mad about horses then, and would certainly have wept over it with much more passion and less real grief than I now feel over the death of the in-lamb sheep flocks and productive dairy herds which were burned today and will continue tomorrow around the Lakes. It is heartbreaking, but we as horse owners will not have to suffer like the dairy farmer who stood with each of his cows as they were put down, because they were his well-loved friends. To my certain knowledge: footpaths/bridleways are closed to walkers/riders/horse drivers - it is a civil offence to be found on them and I am sure any farmer right now would be hard put to it to control his temper if he found anyone recklessly crossing his land. Animal movements are banned to prevent the spread of disease. A special licence that was being brought in this week to move stock direct to abbattoir if proved that the animals had not been off the holding in recent months or in contact with disease, has been temporarily revoked (I don't know why). The Ministry is giving conservative advice to people on farms like stay at home, don't move about too much, take disinfectant precautions; but you can still shop and do business. Our college is not closing, although some schools if within 1.9Km of an infected farm are being advised to do so. This may be to avoid upsetting the children when the burning and burying take place. Downwind of such a pyre cannot be a nice place to be. Staff on the college campus who are in twice- or three-times-daily contact with the Ministry for advice are saying that most of the stories going around are paranoid. Our major efforts as humans are just to prevent the minor possibility of transmitting the disease ourselves on boots or clothing - and to be seen to be taking precautions, in order to remind those less closely involved that if they come into contact with farm stock they must be careful too; ie, education. There were still lads with mountain bikes asking a neighbour's son who works in a big bike shop why he thought they shouldn't go biking across farm land and open fell last weekend. Yes, he told them why!!!
**Yes, the disease is an economic disaster for British farming which was already
at rock bottom after BSE, scrapie, swine fever (hog cholera) and so on.
**Yes, farms will have their livelihoods wiped out and children are being heard asking, "Mummy, Daddy won't commit suicide, will he?" (I heard this at 2nd hand and I am sure there will indeed be farming mothers who will be unable to say No with any conviction).
**Yes, I expect there will be no exports of ponies for while, months probably, until the disease is contained.
**Yes, my husband is wondering which of his customers will have cash to pay for the hay and straw they are receiving from him.
**Yes, we have a disinfectant barrier at the farm gate and spray our truck's wheels after farm visits.
**No, I have not been out carriage driving with my Fell. FINALLY
**No, I don't believe we are going to lose pony stock because of F&M. I'm still sitting here crying, even after writing all that.
Date sent: Wed, 07 Mar 2001 16:16:26 -0000
Looking at the MAFF website it seems the number of F&M cases might have peaked on Friday last (they have a graph on their site at http://www.maff.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/fmd/default.htm) and what we are seeing, gruesome as it may be, is the cleaning up operation. I heard a tale at lunchtime of a truckload of coal arriving for a burning and on discovering that no-one was sure who would pay the bill, the driver turned around and took the load back to his yard....
False hopes of course. The spread of the disease gathered momentum.
Date sent: Thu, 8 Mar 2001 21:08:00 -0000
I am going to be at home for a week - the College Farm is being investigated for F&M disease so staff and students are all to stay at home. I'm washing all my clothes and disinfecting all my footwear. Tomorrow I'm going to the car wash as well (we already have straw at our farm gate with disinfectant renewed daily if not more often on it). I'm keeping my fingers crossed, and it's not confirmed yet, but I know we had some animals (fattening lambs) that were being watched, having possibly been in an infected location. However, hygiene has been very strict on site and all the animal units were out of bounds and all farming students were to stay at home. If it is confirmed, we are unlikely to have spread it elsewhere. Erringtons' farm in Sockbridge has had a pyre burning there since Tuesday -- it seemed to take ages to get it started after their place was confirmed with the disease. They had thousands of sheep, all over the place.
And I was just starting to feel better, too.
Date received: Fri, 09 Mar 2001 02:42:35 -0000
I go round and check on my 5 contented pregnant broodmares give them all a pat and look down into the valley below at the funeral pyre that has been burning for over a week at Withnell the next village and reflect that:- a. they have got feet in the all in one mode as Sue put it,so I dont have to say goodbye to them. b.if I cant go shoeing horses for the next fortnight like the previous one then I will probably go bankrupt..but what the heck my back wont ache any more. c.thank God I no longer keep sheep so I haven`t aged 10 years in the last fortnight like my neighbour who I saw this morning. d.wonder when I am going to see my stallion Sleddale Brown Prince who is loaned out to a neighbouring farm to the one with all the carnage going on at. Bye for now, from a normally happy go lucky R***.
In Englands green but not so pleasant land.
Date sent: Fri, 9 Mar 2001 07:40:16 -0000
My husband is a haulier of feeding stuff - hay and straw - so we are keeping going, but it's hit and miss. He has to source everything from arable farms in Yorkshire who have no livestock, and carries a knapsack sprayer of disinfectant to spray-off the wheels and wheel arches of the wagon when he leaves a farm. Some of his horse customers are the fussiest of all, although their stock are not at risk. On a lighter note (a little grim when you think about people's attitiudes which bring about this situation) a colleague of my husband is next-door to the Erringtons' farm where F&M has been confirmed, and where burning is taking place. He lives down a single track road beyond a tourist-attraction church and he is being bothered by "rubberneckers" coming down to his farm to see if they can see the pyre. He has given up arguing with them but instead pounces on them with his knapsack sprayer. The moment they get out of the car, he sprays them with disinfectant. They don't like it.... Tony (who is the sort of small pugnacious person who looks at the baseball bat in the corner and remarks that he hasn't used it since the miners' strike) simply sprays them harder the more they protest. I cannot understand the insensitivity of people who will drive onto private property to see a pile of animals being burned.
Date received: Fri, 9 Mar 2001 17:11:09 +0100 Report from Sweden
Hi I was in the village shop a few minutes ago. The manager was telling customers that there was going to be a meat shortage next week (due to the EU restrictions) . "It's all the fault of the b****** British". I just pretended I hadn't heard though I was tempted to comment. Also heard on the local news that the dairies in the county have put a ban on just British citizens visiting. I assume that by that they mean that they will greet visitors who are citizens of any country except Britain, even if they come directly from Britain, just as long as they are not British like me!! V* in Sweden - *where I heard that an unreputable transport firm managed to get into Sweden with a load full of Irish Cobs from Ireland and Britain in his not too clean lorry just last weekend*
Date sent: Fri, 9 Mar 2001 19:45:26 -0000
There's always a few people whose bad practice and irresponsible ways will endanger the rest of the community. I hope for your own safety V* you'll be able to "not rise" to the comments about the "b*****y British". Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can't so I end up being "gob on a stick" (usually when I lose my temper really badly I lose the argument too, so I am learning to control it). The College outbreak of F&M has been confirmed so we are "out" for at least a week while the nasty stuff happens. The farm will be restocked, but that won't happen for some time.
Date sent: Sat, 10 Mar 2001 14:43:31 -0000
I think the mention of the Army being brought in was made by the Penrith MP
David MacLean who realised that one of the problems is the number of animals
involved and the scale of the clearing up operation. Since the Army is a body
of men (+ some women!) who are organised, mobile and with a ready made chain
of command, it would seem sensible to call on them to do the cleaning-up. It
happens occasionally, eg if firefighters go on strike or there is a major flood
or other natural disaster, that the Army is asked to take over some operations.
They're trained and they're there. I don't think it was suggested that they
should shoot the animals. I read today an article from a retired vet who said
there is no real option about the slaughter of infected stock. He has seen
F&M both in 67 and now. The disease is not as mild as some people think: its
onset is sudden; within an hour or two of appearing OK an animal can go lame
and off its feed and develop the characteristic blisters in the mouth and on
the feet, which - once they burst and release the virus-filled fluids - are
so sore that the animal will not stand, eat or drink and especially if very
young will probably die of stress and dehydration. I have also read that if
the animal recovers, it will carry the disease for several weeks more and pass
it on. It may become sterile, and if pregnant will probably abort because of
the stress of the disease (which is why the disease is so devastating to dairy
herds). This is quite apart from the economic and political considerations
about export of meat and dairy products, which for me fall into the realm of "things
I don't need to know about right now". F&M is a dreadful thing to have to deal
with. Knowing the facts does not make it any easier to slaughter pedigree livestock
who appear perfectly healthy, and probably destroy a major part of the capital
assets of a sheep or dairy or pig farm (worse for rented than for owned property).
I had a conversation with a customer buying hay today who asked how my pony
was. Of course he is feeling a bit silly with doing no work! I do not want
to go riding or driving about the countryside right now. I may well not be
putting anyone's stock at risk, but I just don't feel comfortable "enjoying
myself" so obviously. I could live with keeping my pony for six months and
doing nothing with him (which a lot of us do in the winter anyway!), if it
takes that long to get the outbreak under control. The rest of my neighbours
may be wondering "would Newton Rigg have got the disease if they'd shut the
college sooner... and has Sue brought it home with her?" They won't say it,
I am sure, and my consience is clear since I know I have not been anywhere
near the college farm livestock which have been out of bounds for three weeks,
and I've also washed every stitch of clothing and disinfected every boot or
shoe that has been there... BUT Just because my own job seems safe doesn't
mean I have to be insensitive to how everybody in farming is feeling right
now. As for the silly B*** "rambler" who <When challenged this
week in our local pub, one said, "well there's no disease here, and any way
I'm vegetarian."> ...
Date sent: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 20:26:10 -0000
Our college animals, all the dairy herd and most of the sheep, were all slaughtered on Sunday. Our Director posted on the web site that it was all done with great care and the animals were spared any unnecessary suffering. The farm staff of course are desperately unhappy about losing the stock like this and everyone is upset about it. We may have a nucleus of hillbred stock allowed to survive at an outlying farm six miles away. The carcasses are being trucked away into Lancashire to be "rendered" there, not burned or buried on college land. Some we know have gone, the rest we are not sure about yet. Nobody is allowed onto the site apart from the contractors who are cleaning up and the farm staff with specific jobs to do, plus a skeleton staff of Director, secretariat and reception people who are dealing with the admin details like arranging staff meetings (in the Methodist church in Penrith on Friday) to organise when we reopen. It's expected to be Monday for staff, Tuesday for students. I don't know about students from farms - - they may have to stay away for a while. There's nothing for them to do in the way of practical work although theory would be OK.
Thank God, as far as I know there is no disease yet on our fells. The nearest is an outbreak at Helton (yes, this close to the Heltondale where the Fell pony breed-name comes from). I haven't heard of any flocks on common land being infected yet. It's rather strange to drive through the countryside and see very few animals in the fields, but it could also mean that many are indoors and under surveillance. It's very worrying for those who have in-lamb or young stock out at winter grazing and they can't be got home. There was some talk this morning of the Army escorting trucks from these outlying grazing areas home to their farms, to make sure nothing goes wrong - eg, no unscheduled / undisinfected stopovers. I have not heard anything more though (missed the news this suppertime as I was travelling). Update: 7pm news has nothing other than the info that there have been 220 cases so far, ie 15 new cases confirmed today. The Govt is talking of destroying any sheep which have been handled by some of the original dealers whose animals have been suspected /confirmed with infection. Could be another 10,000. At present on the radio there is a debate on what action could have been taken, on whether vaccination is a better option than slaughter (I am not qualified to comment either on a veterinary or economic basis, and there is no vet or political economist on the programme), whether the Govt has done enough, whether the urban population has realised how much it owes to the "traditional" values of the countryside, etc, etc, etc. I think of the family I have seen on the TV whose cattle were being shot and who sent their daughter (aged 10) away so she could not hear the sound. They spoke of bereavement. Cynics may say that farmers would "happily" send beasts to slaughter for food / profit. This is a gross over simplification, especially when you talk of dairy animals whose working life is long and whose mutual attachment and friendship with their human handlers is evident in the tears of those who see them shot. Nobody minds putting down a sick and suffering animal, but killing everything that's been in contact does feel medieval. I feel sure there must be a more effective way of dealing with this. I shall stop there before I get angry.
Date sent: Thu, 15 Mar 2001 20:07:58 -0000
There is a little area round us in East Cumbria (Lake District) which is free of the disease but it's all around the northern part of the county. The college at which I work has 3 farms and has lost the stock on two to the slaughtering policy, since one had a case last week. We meet tomorrow to see if we are back at work. Today the Minister for Agriculture has said that all the farms within 3Km of any outbreak will have their sheep slaughtered. It's going to be a bad few weeks while they kill and dispose of all the animals around the campus farm. The air in the town nearby already smells appalling. Thank God I only have a pony, cat and dog these days. My neighbours are walking on eggshells and the villages around here are like ghost towns. All the farmers are keeping themselves to themselves for fear of transmitting the disease. It's not being blown out of proportion as far as we are concerned. I know TV news can do so, but it's a dark cloud in everybody's mind here, even if they do not have cloven-hoofed animals themselves. Sorry to be a bit depressing.
Date sent: Thurs, 15 Mar 2001 21:24:44 +0100
Subject: F&M indecision
Nick Brown made a statement that ALL animals within 3Km of an infected premises would be slaughtered, then had to backtrack and say that only meant pigs and sheep. Vets in the area are upset and say that it will dishearten people and make them careless about cleansing and disinfecting - "They are coming to cull anyway, so what does it matter any more?"
Subject: Foot and Mouth - International support
Date sent: Sun, 25 Mar 2001 16:39:41 +0100
I thought the Herald readers might be comforted by the knowledge that there are plenty of people overseas who are thinking of us, and, I know, praying for a quick end to the problems of Foot and Mouth disease. Via the Internet I have received messages of support and sympathy from dozens of people, mainly equestrian-based since that's how my contacts have been made. These people are mostly in the USA but there are some in Australia, Germany and Sweden as well. None of them are famous, powerful or rich but they all wish us well and grieve for the plight of our countryside. A good friend from Michigan has been planning to visit in April since before this problem began. She has worried a bit about coming, but she and her husband still feel they want to come - only now, it's as much to show that they support us, as to see the sights of the Lake District. Yours etc
Greenholme village show -- one of the earliest of the year -- is cancelled; I'm sure others will follow. The Penrith paper has huge numbers of letters about F&M from readers, poems, prayers, support from overseas, massive blame of outdated administrative methods, relief that the Army has taken over the logistics side of things. Tony Blair had a hostile reception at Carlisle the other day.