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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 17:15 GMT
Farmer's diary: My fears

Warwickshire farmer Adam Quinney, gives BBC News Online a personal account of the economic impact of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Not long ago, in the middle of February, things seemed to be improving.

As a farm business I knew that I had a struggle to recover, but I felt we had turned a corner and things would improve over the coming months.

Farmer Adam Quinney's children with newborn lamb
In reality there is little to smile about
Then we had the spectre of BSE in Europe denting consumer confidence on the other side of the channel, resulting in European beef producers looking for other markets, and increasing their exports into Britain.

Finally, foot-and-mouth appears in Essex.

At first it seemed that the outbreak would be controlled quickly and things would be back to normal within a matter of weeks.

How wrong can you be? Some people now feel that things will never be the same again in the livestock industry.

While there are many financial problems created by the restrictions on movement that could be a deathblow to numerous farms, the immediate concern on my farm is simply how do we manage our livestock over the coming 18 months?

How and when will I be able to move my 'in lamb' ewes out of the field they are in?

The Somme

It now resembles the Somme - feed stocks are running low (in fact, are almost out), the ewes are cold and wet; losing body condition even though we have bought-in an extra 100 tonnes of sugar beet for them.

Adam Quinney playing with his dogs
Adam Quinney: The sheep dogs have no work
We had put them in one field a couple of days before the ban on movement. The vet scans them to show how many lambs each ewe is carrying, so that feed can be matched to dietary needs.

Last year's lambs are happy and fine - well more than happy because they should have been sold by now!

They are kept in a building that should be empty to allow the older sheep inside, and are eating the stored feed that would have been fed to the ewes.

Our beef cows are in a building over one mile from the farm, and with no adjoining land, it is imperative that we bring them home to calve in April.

Ordinarily, they would be housed in the buildings vacated by 'finished' cattle, which should have been sold.

We look after some young cows for a local dairy farm, these also start to calve in April and need to be moved home, I do not have the facilities to calve them here or to milk them!

The field that the sheep are in would have been for hay to feed next winter's stock.

It will take some time for this field to recover and so the hay crop will be lighter, reducing the amount of fodder for next year.

The fields that we should be spreading farm yard muck (FYM) on for maize production are left untouched because we cannot transport the FYM down a road.

If we have to delay planting the maize, yield will suffer, again leading to lower supplies of fodder for next winter.

On a happier note, the sun is shining, the grass will now grow and hopefully we will have a nice spring and summer, the best for years, to make up for the last 12 months!

I must remember to smile when I see the bank manager....

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See also:

12 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Fear of second NI outbreak
12 Mar 01 | Europe
UK labelled 'leper of Europe'
11 Mar 01 | Scotland
Scotland's disease total climbs
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