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Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 11:43 GMT
'Nobody knew who would be next'
A dairy cow
Entire herds of cows had to be slaughtered
By BBC News Online's Hilary Bowden

Oswestry farmer Martin Davies has vivid memories of the last major outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease back in 1967.

"My father called out the vet one day because one of our yearlings was looking a bit lame. There had been some outbreaks on nearby farms so we knew what it could mean.

Farmer in a hayfield
Farmers tried to stop the spread of the disease with disinfected hay
"Within 24 hours our entire herd of 180 cattle and 200 sheep had been shot and buried. He'd spent his life building it up and it was gone, just like that.

"There was compensation but it was nowhere near enough to cover the loss. You had to wait 14 or 15 weeks before you could restock and there was no income during that time.

"We had to lay our two farm workers off. I was only a teenager at the time and there was nothing for me to do either."


Within 24 hours our entire herd of 180 cattle and 200 sheep had been shot and buried

Farmer Martin Davies
The only work available to Martin was a job with Wimpey, the contractors who had been employed by the Ministry to help dispose of the infected carcasses.

Mr Davies, 53, said: "I knew where all the farms in the area were, so I worked as a foreman. They used JCBs to bury the bodies. I remember seeing about 200 parked in Oswestry at one stage.

"The animals were all corralled into a field and shot. Their bodies were tipped into huge holes or, if the field was too soggy, we had to bring coal and sleepers and set fire to them. It was a very depressing job but it had to be done.

"My Dad was a resilient type and eventually managed to build the farm up again but it had a big impact."


Nobody knew who was going to be next and there was nothing you could really do about it

Farmer John Dark
More than 2,364 outbreaks were detected around Britain, sparking the slaughter of 442,000 animals.

Shropshire was particularly hard-hit but farmers in every corner of the UK felt the fear.

Cornish farmer John Dark was working on a cattle and beef farm in Sevenoaks in Kent when news of the outbreak first broke.

"All the farmers in the area had a 24-hour rota. We used to douse straw in disinfectant and lay it across the road at major junctions and county boundaries to try prevent the spread of the disease.

"We were worried that the infection might be carried by the wheels of lorries. The dairy trucks in particular were travelling from farm to farm.

"Everyone did three or four hour shifts around the clock.

"Nobody was really sure exactly how the disease spread. They used to blame it on the birds.

"It was a very depressing time. All the markets shut and there was very little trading. Everything ground to a halt.

"Nobody knew who was going to be next and there was nothing you could really do about it. You just felt powerless."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"This is the first case in Britain in 20 years"


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16 Aug 00 | UK
06 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
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