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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 October 2007, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
Foot-and-mouth: Farmer's diary
Angus Stovold
Angus Stovold farms Aberdeen Angus cattle in Surrey
Farmer Angus Stovold farms several hundred cattle, a small flock of sheep and a small herd of pigs on eight holdings in Surrey.

Seven of these holdings were within the control zones set up during August's foot-and-mouth outbreak, and he came under severe restrictions.

Although neighbouring farms' animals were culled, his livestock survived that outbreak. He was just getting back to normal when the disease appeared again - with one of his holdings again in the surveillance zone.

Here, he talks about his day-to-day experiences of living and farming near the centre of a foot-and-mouth outbreak as well as fears over the bluetongue virus. The most recent entry appears at the top.

THURSDAY 18 OCTOBER

Even though the movement restrictions are being removed elsewhere, the prospect of us not being able to move animals home is keeping me up at night.

We have the added problem of Defra wanting to blood test all the cattle. This would be relatively straight forward at home, but they are stuck in fields all over the place.

We are going to have to move a handling system around the countryside. Cattle are not stupid and seeing a handling system being built in the field they become very suspicious of it.

They have very long horns... the prospect of taking blood from them is a little daunting
Angus Stovold

So it takes us several days to entice them into it and with 12 fields of cattle it could be a long job.

We have two Highland steers Jock and Gordon who are pets. They have been on the farm for 17 years and we have never handled them.

They have very long horns and know how to use them. The prospect of taking blood from them is a little daunting.

Calving has stopped and will continue in November, all animals are well. Liz and Tom are on a telehandlers course today, so I am looking after the farm.

I was in London on Tuesday at a Royal Smithfield Club AGM. The club promotes excellence in animal quality, with an annual show in early December.

It was decided that the show would have to be cancelled because of the foot-and-mouth crisis - the first time in its 206-year history.

The club had no choice but to cancel the show, for a variety of reasons, the main being Defra's reluctance to grant them a licence.

It was a very difficult day.

FRIDAY 12 OCTOBER

Almost two weeks from the last case of foot-and-mouth. Probably with no more cases we might have the movement restrictions lifted by the end of the month.

We are trying to keep the cattle comfortable where they are, but it's difficult, they need moving to fresh grazing or moved home.

The weather is helping as it's dry and fairly warm. If the weather turns we could be in trouble.

We have animals on water meadows and if we were to get rain it could flood. Other cattle are on heavy ground, with little food so we will have to feed them soon. It could get quite muddy.

If we could just move them back to the farm it would help. Tom's on holiday in Greece for a week but Liz is back and working hard.

We got our maize crop in at the weekend. It's our winter food and was a good crop. The weather was ideal for the harvest. We have about 1,500 tons.

Our other great worry at the moment is bluetongue. It's slowly moving west, 32 cases as of Thursday.

We cannot move anything because of foot-and-mouth but when the movement restrictions are lifted for that, we are still in the bluetongue zone.

No prospect of selling breeding stock to Europe for at least two years and our domestic market's severely restricted. It's going to be a difficult winter financially.

TUESDAY 2 OCTOBER

I attended Guildford farmers market and had a great deal of support. But I am wondering what to do on the farm.

We have animals all over the place and winter is coming. We cannot keep them where they are, and we need to feed them soon.

I think it's going to be a very difficult winter for us and probably a difficult 2008 if bluetongue takes hold

The latest outbreak means that we will not be able to move at least until early November, which is going to be a huge problem if the weather turns for the worst.

Let's hope for a dry October and/or an early resumption of movements.

Some of the farm is within the bluetongue control area and some is outside and I don't know what this means for us.

I think it's going to be a very difficult winter for us and probably a difficult 2008 if bluetongue takes hold.

As breeders of high quality Aberdeen Angus cattle, we are going to have to revaluate our business.

If we were only selling for meat it would be easier times, but who will buy pedigree cattle now?

We show cattle all over the country, but I don't think there will be any shows next year.

We have many breeding animals for sales; traditionally we would sell them now. I cannot see any sales until next March or April - we are going to have a lean winter, with little income.

SATURDAY 29 SEPTEMBER

Last night I had two cows calving. Bessima had a large female calf at midnight, she had been up and down all day and things started to happen at around 2200. She's had several calves and done it all by herself. But this time it was cold and the wind was howling so I waited until she had it and checked it was ok.

Earlier in the evening we had to get a cow called Black Petal into a coral and assist her to calve. She had a large bull calf and both were fine, but I wish I had them nearer to home.

We had a couple more calve today. One was a heifer - a first timer - who did it all by herself and had the calf suckling in no time. All the livestock are well. I hope this rain does not go on for too long as we are unable to move the animals because of the foot-and-mouth restrictions. At least there has not been any new outbreaks.

We all hope the cold weather prevents the midges from spreading it, but it seems the virus has got a hold
Angus Stovold
The bad news is the spread of the bluetongue. This is a great worry to us all because it is so easily spread and with no cure, we could see a great deal of livestock die. We are over 150km from the outbreak, so movement restrictions do not apply to us at the moment.

We all hope the cold weather prevents the midges from spreading it, but it seems the virus has got a hold. The DEFRA website saying it's circulating freely in the midge and livestock population. We are now trying to plan for the future, but its not easy,- how do we farm with bluetongue?

We are having friends to dinner this evening, I would have liked to watched the rugby, but my wife Tiggy needs a break and it should take our minds off things for at least a few hours. Come on England!

WEDNESDAY 26 SEPTEMBER

The cattle that are due to calve all seem to be hanging on. We have several that are very close but no movement. We are checking our livestock twice a day which actually takes quite along time.

Some movement restrictions have been lifted. Unfortunately not for us as we are considered within the surveillance zone. We cannot move anything.

As for the rest of the country it has been divided into high risk and low risk. In the high risk you can move animals to slaughter, so giving some income, and you can move calving cows back to the farm but only after a vet inspection.

In the low risk, basically all counties outside the south east of England, you can now move farm to farm, although under heavy restriction, but at least it helps farmers move in or out breeding stock. It will help the hill sheep farmers, who need to get stock off the hills before winter.

I hope this colder weather will help us in the fight against bluetongue.

SUNDAY 23 SEPTEMBER

We have been worrying about bluetongue for a while. It has sat on the coast of northern Europe all summer and the possibilities of an infected midge making the relative short crossing over the Channel on the wind were inevitable.

I had hoped that a cold winter would stop the virus spread. Speaking to German farmers last week, they were amazed we had not already had it.

It will be very difficult to be a cattle breeder with the virus around because of the movement restrictions. Let's hope it is contained in Ipswich and that we have a cold winter.

Tom worked on the cattle today, all animals are well. I went to Farnham farmers' market. We have a great deal of verbal support from our customers, glad to see we had not succumbed to foot-and-mouth.

I am going out to check the cattle again tonight, it's one of my perks to check animals in the early evening on Sunday during the summer.

The light, the views, the stillness always makes me feel good. Let's hope British agriculture has a good week next week.

SATURDAY 22 SEPTEMBER

Another new case and I know the farmer from the prime minister's meeting the week before. I remember him saying how worried he was for his pedigree cattle. I hope I don't have to go through what he's going through.

Tom checks the cattle in the morning, I do them in the afternoon after watching the rugby.

And in the evening, I check the Defra website. My heart sinks again. Bluetongue in Ipswich - that's all we need now.

THURSDAY 20 SEPTEMBER

We have not had any calves for a couple of days, I expect they are building up for the weekend.

Cows on Angus Stovold's farm
Angus fears for his herd
We have several groups of cattle needing fresh grass, but cannot move them even to the next-door field. We have some cattle in the surveillance zone, which means that all our holdings are now treated as being within it even though they are not.

Forty tons of straw arrive on a lorry throughout the day. We use about 1,000 bales a year. The price is going through the roof as straw grown within the protection zone has been destroyed. We pay normally 3.75 a bale - I brought this lot for a whopping 12 each.

MONDAY 17 SEPTEMBER

It looks, I hope, that this latest outbreak is being contained, so I hope vaccination will not be used. If it were the case that the virus was out of control, then I would support a limited use of vaccination, within a zone around the outbreak site. I would not support it being used nationally while it is being contained in a small area.

Why am I against it? I have pedigree cattle, pigs (rare breed saddlebacks) and sheep. If we had to vaccinate them, they could only ever go for meat.

We are able, especially as high health cattle breeders, to command far higher prices for our breeding stock. If vaccinated, my grandfather's, my father's and my life's work breeding this well-known herd would be finished.

I have a tenant on the farm who has several thousand outdoor pigs. We use them to put fertility into the soil. Imagine the welfare issues and just the logistics of trying to vaccinate them every four months.

If a vaccinated zone was created around the affected farms, how would it be policed? Just the associated cost of that could be huge. What would happen to the farmers within the zone? I cannot see them staying. We have enough problems keeping people farming in Surrey as it is.

SUNDAY 16 SEPTEMBER

Up early and went around the stock. Nothing was born during the night and all animals are well. Went on the Defra website and saw there were no new cases of foot-and-mouth. It seems to be going the right way.

Defra 'No entry' tape across a Surrey farm
Defra restricted animal movements
Went up to Milford farmers' market after washing the Land Rover and put up notices to say we would not be attending due to the current outbreak.

Saw and spoke to the Emmerson family, who were culled out in August. They are hoping to start again and really miss the animals. I could not go through what they went through. They seem OK but you can sense a change.

SATURDAY 15 SEPTEMBER

The cow had her calf by herself at about 0200, and I checked her at about 0300. Both doing fine.

We heard that the restrictions on taking animals to slaughter are being lifted in England. But I'm not sure if that will apply to us yet, because we have one holding in the surveillance zone and the whole farm may be treated as one entity. I have got animals which are ready to go to the butchers, but if they can't they will be all right.

FRIDAY 14 SEPTEMBER

I was greeted at 0530 by Princess and her new calf born during the night. All is well for both of them. At 0930 I travel to the NFU offices in London to meet our Surrey office representatives and union president Peter Kendall.

At 1100 the prime minister, Gordon Brown, arrives to have a round table discussion with us on the new outbreak.

He was very good, he had knowledge of the disease and the impact it was having on us.

I feel reassured but I hope Defra are not pushed into a corner with foot-and-mouth and have to vaccinate. That would be a disaster for my herd.

(This is because, in effect, a vaccination-to-live policy would create an inner zone in which all animals would be vaccinated. No animal would ever be allowed to leave the zone except for meat, so all our breeding animals would be worthless, as would our saddleback pigs. One in five vaccinated animals carry and display signs of the disease. So not for me.)

Got home mid-afternoon. Another cow thinking about calving. It could be a long night.

THURSDAY 13 SEPTEMBER

We have one herd in the zone but not near the outbreak. We close that area down and get someone who lives on site to take it over.

I have a cow, Princess, very close to calving at the farm. We take a handling system over to her and hope she calves with no problems.

WEDNESDAY 12 SEPTEMBER

The nightmare starts again. A new case of foot-and-mouth has been confirmed in Surrey. We were out in the fields all day and only heard when Farmers Weekly rang us up. We have moved some cattle to fresh grazing, but our main herd due to calve now is miles from the farm.

We put down our mats again and close down the farm. All animal movements stop.

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