My fears have been confirmed. We are in the bluetongue surveillance zone. I arrived home this evening checked the answer phone and there was the man from DEFRA with his recorded message – in a dead-pan voice he stated ‘some, part, or all of my holding now came within the bluetongue surveillance zone and…’
Below is an excerpt from an email sent to me by a fellow farmer in Norfolk. I won’t add anything. The words tell their own story – poignant and thought provoking.
‘Our stock are our livelihood, such as it is, we run an organic beef suckler herd and 700 laying hens, and work long hours trying to make a living, but that’s life: farmings’ shit at the moment, but what else do we do?’
Last year they were hit by restrictions from both FMD and Avian flu (twice), having just, in the very nick of time, saved their entire suckler herd from drowning during the floods they heard the news about bluetounge. In her own words…
‘Just after that Bluetongue was detected, and we thought Now What!!? how do we deal with this? what are the symptoms? is it contagious? does it cross species? and the media had a field day; yet again; (They virtually camped in the area during the first Avian Flu outbreak- 9 miles from us) and there was no clear information, later on the farmers that had cows with the disease said there were few symptoms to tell they were affected, but since then our vet has been trying to keep abreast of the disease, and how it will affect cows in the future, and it seems as though some of the affects of the disease is to cause infertility in some and may cause calves to be born with abnormalities. I can only liken that to thalidomide in pregnant women. Follow that up again with Liver Fluke and a blasted fox getting my five 12 week old chicks from off the lawn, and traumatising their mother half to death. (she spent hours in the pond to avoid getting caught), and one might wonder why we carry on!’
‘Yes, you bet we’re worried, but we can’t allow it to take over our lives. We just take heart that life here, at the moment, goes on in the age old tradition, and we are thankful that at least this year we have some beautiful calves to see bounding and gambolling about, and we will worry when the time comes (and hopefully it won’t). I’ve got enough grey hairs, and F has none, he has pulled all his out over the years!!’
So how will farms and good, caring people like this cope? Beef animal are already making a loss of £139 per animal. Not to mention the heartache caused from tending sick and dying stock. We will loose those very farms and farmers that are trying their best to produce high quality food from healthy, happy, animals whilst caring as best they can for the environment.