midges flying over hanaborough moor 7th february 2008

Bluetongue. Twenty-four different BT strains identified so far each needing a strain-specific vaccine. This disease is expected to become endemic in Britain. There will be no compensation. Vaccination will be the only way of protecting livestock. Our native and indigenous breeds of cattle and sheep will be more susceptible to the disease having never encountered it before.

The BTV-8 strain is now affecting the Eastern and South-eastern counties of the UK with the surveillance zone having been extended into some parts of Dorset. DEFRA are expecting different strains of the disease to arrive along the South West coast from France this spring and spread northwards.
In the UK midges have not been killed off during the mild winter and are already flying. They travel two kilometres a day in normal weather conditions and much further in strong headwinds. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out how long it will take to reach Devon.

It is hoped, according to DEFRA, there will be enough BTV-8 vaccine ready to carry out vaccination in the South East during May. There is no indication of a more comprehensive vaccination programme this year, next year or ever. The costs of developing vaccines for the 24 various strains and for implementing a countrywide vaccination programme will be staggering. Will DEFRA or the government be willing to help with the costs? I’m not so sure.

I’m shit scared and worried. It seems extraordinary to me that some people appear to be acting as if it’s a mild inconvenience. This disease is potentially devastating; especially to an already beleaguered livestock industry. And I don’t know if I have the heart or energy left to cope with a farm of sick and dying animals. This could be the death-knoll for Locks Park Farm.


Twinkling fairies? Or the harbinger of devastation?