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Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
'Ridding my farm of foot-and-mouth'
Disinfecting an infected farm site
"My husband's been cleaning hell for leather"
The UK Government is halting the "final cleansing" of farms affected by foot-and-mouth due to spiralling costs, estimated at 2m a day in England and Wales.

Cumbrian farmer Helen Horn is one of those waiting to begin this secondary cleaning, which would allow her to replace her slaughtered cattle and sheep.

We were declared an infected premises on 17 June. We had foot and mouth in some of our 500 sheep. We also had a herd of pedigree Limousin cattle. Everything went.

We've been getting on very well with the cleaning process. My husband has been going at it hell for leather. He's always worked hard and he can't wind down now the stock's gone.

Disinfecting an infected farm site
"It pays for us to clean up our farm"
The government's new stance on secondary cleaning is crazy. Especially when they've been telling us how important it is we ensure biosecurity [halting the spread of the virus with disinfectant].

The cost of cleansing English farms could be higher than in Europe because our farms are definitely larger than those on the continent.

Scottish farms [which also cost less to clean than their English or Welsh counterparts] have a lot of stock, but I think a lot of them are kept on the hill so there aren't so many buildings to disinfect.

Buildings destroyed

Our stock was outside when we were infected, so perhaps things have been easier on us. The authorities certainly aren't having us pull down buildings, roofs and old timbers.


I'd be surprised if [the cleaning] ends up costing 30,000

Helen Horn
Our buildings are all only 10 years old. Older buildings are a lot more difficult to clean. We have a 50-year-old milking shed, when we turned the pressure hoses on the roof the asbestos started to shred.

You can bring in a team to help you clean - or have them do it all for you. But we have no income at all from the farm and nothing else to do, so it obviously pays for us to work for the government to clean up our farm.

Only income

So far it has only cost the government 18,000 to clean our farm. I'd be surprised if it ends up costing 30,000 for absolutely everything.

Disinfecting an infected farm site
"When we turned the hoses on the roof it started to shred"
We use our own cleaning equipment and hire in anything we don't have. The authorities are always coming to check up on our progress and collect our time sheets.

You have to muck out. Scrape the walls with shovels. Get a digger to move all that away. Then you brush down the cobwebs and dust, and hire a crane to go up into the roof.

Major task

Only after all that you are allowed to pressure wash everything. That all takes a long time. After this you go on to degreasing - which takes the rest of the muck and stuff off the walls. Then you pressure wash again.

We have to be very careful about where the dirty water goes, we're close to some rivers and a neighbours bore hole. The Environment Agency has to approve everything.


It would be cheaper to give every infected farmer 40,000 and send them on a round-the-world trip

Helen Horn
We don't have a slurry [liquid animal waste] pit, but those that do have an expensive job on their hands. We're told the virus can live in slurry for six months, so it needs to be treated with citric acid.

It's been carnage around here recently, worse than at the start of the outbreak - not that it's received much publicity. There isn't a four-legged animal within three miles.

I think the government's chasing its tail on foot and mouth. They tell us disinfectants kill the virus, they tell us about biosecurity, they tell us it will be over. But it seems as bad as ever here.

One chap said to me it would be cheaper to give every infected farmer 40,000 and send them on a round-the-world trip for 10 months. When they got back the virus would be dead and nothing would need to be done.



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