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Last Updated: Monday, 6 August 2007, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Abattoir lay-offs after outbreak
Cow
A total ban on cattle movement has now been implemented
Abattoir workers have been laid off as farming unions held talks with the assembly government over UK-wide foot-and-mouth restrictions.

A UK-wide ban on moving livestock was brought in late on Friday after a case at a farm in Guildford, Surrey.

Almost 10 million cows, sheep and pigs are affected in Wales and farmers estimate the cost at 2m a week.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said the assembly government was "working very closely with Defra and other bodies".

Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has flown back early from a New Zealand holiday and has been attending the government's Cobra emergency committees on Sunday and Monday.

"My top priority at the moment is that Wales remains disease free," Ms Jones said.

Walkers in the Brecon Beacons
People have been urged to continue visiting the countryside as normal

"It's important that all the restrictions that have been put in place and all the precautions are implemented here in Wales."

She said she wanted to see the restrictions on moving livestock lifted as quickly as possible but added that she would not do anything which would jeopardise the future of the Welsh livestock industry.

Mr Morgan said he knew the restrictions were causing "hardship for farmers".

"But I also know that they will support our efforts to contain and eradicate the disease as quickly as possible," he added.

The ban on moving cows, sheep and pigs means farmers are not able to sell any livestock or take them to abattoirs.

Workers at an abattoir on Anglesey were among the first in Wales to feel the impact of the ban.

Around 85 employees at the Welsh Country Foods abattoir in Gaerwen, have been laid off for a week. Workers at Cig Cibyn Abattoir in Caernarfon have also sent staff home.

ADVICE FOR FARMERS
Sheep at a farm in Brecon
Defra Helpline: 0845 9335577
Animal Health Offices - Caernarfon: 01286 674144
Carmarthen: 01267 245400; 07000 780144 (eve)
Cardiff: 029 20 768500

The company employs 45 workers and 30 of them have been told to stay at home.

Company director Sian Pritchard said: "We are assessing the situation hour by hour and we are in contact with the authorities to see how things develop."

Wales' chief veterinary surgeon, Dr Christianne Glossop, said the authorities needed to be convinced there would be no new cases of the disease and that the outbreak in Surrey was isolated.

Meanwhile, Dai Davies, president of NFU Cymru, said the assembly and Defra had reacted quickly to the outbreak.

He said: "It's something the industry takes on the chin but from there on we'll be gleaning more information about where we're going forward - to find relief for the industry, to see if there is a way that some people can get animals to abattoir and if there's a way forward."

"It all depends how long the standstill goes on for. I think every farmer in the UK accepts if you take a bit of pain up front we might get out of this quicker."

The movement ban is beginning to be felt across Wales. The South Wales Sheepdog Association have cancelled trials at Builth Wells on Monday and Tuesday and Cwmowen in Powys on Wednesday.

Show cancelled

Cardigan livestock market, which would normally expect to sell 400 cattle, is closed and a rams sale at Builth Wells has also off.

One of Europe's largest sheep markets in Welshpool, Powys, has been cancelled, as have sales at Bryncir Mart in Gwynedd.

Over the weekend some agricultural events like the Gower Show and Whitland market in Carmarthenshire were cancelled as restrictions on moving livestock were imposed.

One auctioneer, Huw Evans from Carmarthenshire, said: "August and September are big months for sheep sales. Many producers will be dependent on getting rams there to put them to work with the flocks.

"It will delay lambing next year - it throws the whole farming programme out of the window."

Edwin Harris, who farms at Libanus near Brecon, lost his stock in the 2001 outbreak, which saw 20,000 sheep slaughtered in the Brecon Beacons alone.

"We're entering a trading season in farming for selling sheep and cattle, there are specialised ewe sales, all these hang in the balance - everything's on stop," he said.

"There's a great deal of uncertainty and the faster we can move, the better."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Listen to the assembly government's Minister for Rural Affairs, Elin Jones.


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