FMD farmer speaks out

The farmer at the centre of the foot and mouth outbreak (FMD) in Surrey spoke today of his belief that a flooded sewer may have been responsible for bringing the virus to his cattle.

The recent floods caused sewage to run onto Pride's land, which is situated close to Pirbright, the facility housing both the government's Institute of Animal Health (IAH) and Merial Animal Health Ltd, which work with live FMD strains. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE), which has been investigating the premises as a possible source of the outbreak, is due to report its findings this afternoon.

Roger Pride, who runs Woolford's Farm with his family, said the outbreak had left him feeling "shocked and devastated." He told of the difficult phone call he had to make to his parents Derrick and Sheila, once Defra had confirmed FMD, and said he had drawn comfort from other farmers and friends in the area who had offered their support.

In a statement read out by the National Farmers' Union (NFU) director of communications, Anthony Gibson, the Pride family said their farm was well-respected, they had maintained the 'highest standards' and the FMD outbreak was 'dreadful for everyone concerned'. They also issued a plea to farmers to maintain the highest standards of bio-security and keep vigilant checks on their livestock to prevent anyone else going through the same situation.

This is Roger Pride's statement:

"Our business is D. Pride and partners. It was started by my parents Derrick and Sheila about 50 years ago and is now being carried on by myself and my wife Valerie. During that time we have built up what I hope and believe is a well run and respected family business.

"The mainstay of our business is buying in store cattle at six months and over which we fatten for beef. We finish around 50 cattle a year and the beef is mainly sold through the farm shop.

"We check our animals every day and it was when my father Derrick was with the cattle last Thursday that he noticed that some of them were off colour and drooling. He contacted me and asked me to come and have a look. This I did and it was immediately obvious that something was badly wrong. We contacted our vet straight away and he advised us to inform Defra. The Defra vet was on the farm within an hour and a half.

"By this time it was late in the evening and getting dark, so the vet asked us to have the cattle penned by 5.30 the next morning for testing. Testing started at 6am and continued until four in the afternoon. At that time, it was very far from clear that the animals were in fact suffering from FMD.

"It was at about seven that Defra Animal Health phoned to say that the tests were positive. For a moment, we couldn't believe it. We were just completely shocked and devastated. It felt as if our whole world had been turned upside down.

"There were 38 cattle in that group, with another group of 22 in the village and four more back on farm. All three groups were valued and humanely slaughtered on Saturday. Whilst we will be compensated for the market value of the cattle, there are the cleaning and disinfection costs to be resolved and our farming business will be closed down for many months.

"Whatever the cause of the outbreak, it is obvious that we have been the victims of circumstances far beyond our control. The theory that the sewer which overflowed into part of the field where the 38 cattle were grazing could be the cause is an obvious possibility. Certainly, no-one from this farm has had any contact with the Pirbright facility.

"We have always practiced the highest standards of bio-security at Wolford Farm, have been meticulous with our record keeping and no animals have been moved onto or off the farm since early June.

"As we are sure you can imagine, this has been a dreadful time for everyone and, although it is in very regrettable circumstances, we would like to thank all of the Defra Animal Health officials at Reigate and the other officials who we have come into contact with for their compassion, sensitivity and professionalism.

"We sincerely hope that the nightmare we have been living through can be avoided by other farmers and we therefore strongly support all of the measures that have been put in place to stop the spread of this terrible disease. We would urge all farmers and members of the public to follow the guidance issued by Defra and respect the need for the highest possible level of bio-security.

"We would also like to thank the very many friends and farm shop customers for the hundreds of messages of support we have received, and indeed the local farming community for all the help that they have provided.

"We need now to get on with re-building our lives and our business."

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