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EDITIONS
Friday, 7 December, 2001, 15:20 GMT
Life after foot-and-mouth
Jeremy Taylor on his farm in Broughton in the Yorkshre Dales
Jeremy Taylor is building up livestock at his farm again
As Britain moves a step closer to being cleared of foot-and-mouth, with the last area of the country losing its "infected" status, BBC News Online special correspondent Mike Mckay returns to communities blighted by the disease.

This time we were able to drive up on to the moors, cross the cattle grids, then down the rutted track between dry-stone walls into Tom Lord's farm yard.

But that was it. Anywhere else on the farm was forbidden to us.

Back in May, Tom had driven down to meet us in the tiny Yorkshire Dales hamlet of Langcliffe. But only after he had spent half an hour changing clothes, showering and then disinfecting his four-wheel drive.

The culling of his 47 cows and 200 sheep had desolated his hill farm near Settle.


It was fraught - but we were determined to keep going

Jeremy Taylor
Farmer
No doubt today the atmosphere at least would be different.

North Yorkshire had just moved from High Risk to At Risk status and the confident official prediction was that it would be declared foot-and-mouth disease free before Christmas.

But the legacy of frustration among many farmers over Ministry handling of the epidemic runs deep.

Tom Lord produced an armful of official documents including one entitled 'Agreement between farmer and Maff to carry out cleansing and disinfectant'.

Like many other farmers, he had been performing his own regular clean-up at the height of the crisis, paid 15 an hour to do so by Maff.

But there was a rash of stories about farmers abusing the system. Prime Minister Tony Blair stepped in and the 'agreement' was disavowed.

Animal welfare

"We had to stop work abruptly while quantity surveyors came round and costed out the work again," said Tom.

"Of course, then the rate for the job became 12.50 an hour. To me, they were breaking a contract.

"But the worst part was the three-month delay it all caused. When we got going again, the nights were drawing in and the weather conditions made the job more difficult."

The delay has another effect. Tom has bought some more sheep. But under present regulations he cannot move them onto his own land till next March.

"And that poses a real animal welfare worry - because just about the time they are moving into new surroundings is when they will also be lambing," he said.

Gwen Price in her shop in the Yorkshire Dales
Gwen Price has noticed an absence of foreign visitors
Some farmers took a different course - a calculated risk, you might say.

Down the valley, at Broughton, the dairy farm of Edward Taylor and his son Jeremy lost 400 cattle and 800 sheep when a neighbour's farm was infected.

"Of course, the official figures don't include the 1,400 lambs that also had to go after we spent weeks safely delivering them," said Jeremy.

But one fragment of hope remained. Though the vast majority of their renowned Holstein Friesians had been wiped out, 40 survived unscathed on a separate patch of land a few miles away.

The Taylors moved everything they could onto the separate plot, set up temporary animal shelter and went on milking by hand. They also decided to bear the cost of continuous cleaning themselves.

Traumas

All the time, they were going through regular inspection hoops, crossing their fingers each time an animal was tested. But the result is that they are now restocking.

One-hundred-and-fifty heifers now populate part of the Defra-approved farm.

And while Jeremy Taylor showed us round the new stock, father Edward was in Lancashire scouting for more.

"It was fraught - but we were determined to keep going," said Jeremy.

The tourist trade may not have experienced the emotional traumas of many farmers - but there is an anxious note of hope around the town of Settle.

Tourist information manager Yvonne Fortune said it had been "pretty terrible".

Cows
Livestock have to undergo regular inspections
"I reckon visitor numbers were down by about 50% this summer. Camp sites were closed and holiday cottages were empty."

Inquiries about holidays next Spring are starting to come in. But callers are reluctant to make bookings yet, she said.

The area is famous for its walking. Footpaths are re-opening slowly and while access to the three peaks of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent, is now open, the traditional linked walk remains closed.

In her shop, Dales Pictures, Gwen Price's walls are covered in unsold paintings and sketches of the region.

This year she has noticed most the absence of foreign visitors, particularly from Australia and America.

Ironically, hotel beds were often filled with Defra inspectors and vets.

"Local people have been good," said Gwen.

"A lot have come into us for picture framing and people have just rallied round. We're hoping now that a good spring will bring the visitors back."



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29 Nov 01 | England
02 Nov 01 | England
29 Oct 01 | England
12 Oct 01 | England
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