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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
How much for that cow?
Cows
Foot-and-mouth has cost more than 2bn so far
Almost 40 farmers have each claimed compensation payments of more than 1m since the outbreak of foot-and-mouth. How are these payments calculated?

The amounts paid to the farmers dubbed the so-called "foot-and-mouth millionaires" seem, at first glance, quite staggering.

At least 37 farmers stand to receive payments of more than 1m each, based not on loss of income, but solely on livestock valuations. Yet these animals are their assets, and even a small business's assets can easily top the one million mark.

But asking how much a cow - or sheep or pig - is worth is as straightforward as enquiring after the value of a car, says David Brown, secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association.

"Cars can vary from 25 for an old wreck to 250,000 for a top-of-the-line model - you're in much the same position with livestock."

Whereas a dairy cow on a commercial farm may be worth between 700 to 1,500, a high-pedigree animal with prized bloodlines could be worth about 150,000, Mr Brown says.

The value is calculated in writing by a valuer appointed and paid for by the government, based on the breed, age and market cycle.

Prices pushed up

Previously, farmers could opt for a standard tariff of about 1,100 for a breeding cow, 90 for a ewe and 130 for a breeding sow.

Sheep
Testing for the virus
But this has been scrapped, as it had been introduced as a temporary measure to clear bottlenecks that may have delayed the slaughter. Less than 10% of farmers used the rates.

Although set above the standard market valuation at the time, the tariffs served mainly to put an inflated minimum on market values, Mr Brown says.

Foot-and-mouth may well be pushing up the value of the nation's livestock, as the culls make some breeds more and more scarce, he says.

Up in smoke

Les Armstrong, of Cumbria, who lost 500 cattle and 1,300 sheep to the virus in March, reacted angrily to suggestions that farmers were cashing in on the crisis.

"Compare that with the footballer who got 1m tax-free for a game of football... you put that in comparison with a lifetime's work. That money, I would like to remind everybody, is going to be spent again in this country."

BBC presenter John Craven with Charolais heifer
A Charolais heifer
Among the farmers due a hefty cheque is Jim Goldie, reportedly owed more than 4m - a sum he says is inaccurate - for the loss of pedigree sheep and cattle.

Mr Goldie spent more than 30 years building up his herd, only to watch his 741 Charolais and Limousin cattle, and 800 sheep, go up in smoke at the virus swept his two farms in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.

"Whatever money we got was for the value of our stock, but we got nothing for the income we lost," Mr Goldie has said.

"We have seen our lives destroyed and our business wiped out and that money will go to rebuilding it."



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