Bluetongue confirmed in Copdock

A GOVERNMENT minister conceded has confirmed farmers are feeling “defenceless” as the fourth case of bluetongue was confirmed at a farm near Ipswich.Lord Rooker, minister for sustainable food, farming and animal health, said it was a difficult time for the industry, which is also battling against the latest foot-and-mouth outbreaks.

A GOVERNMENT minister has conceded farmers are feeling “defenceless” as the fourth case of bluetongue was confirmed at a farm near Ipswich.

Lord Rooker, minister for sustainable food, farming and animal health, said it was a difficult time for the industry, which is also battling against the latest foot-and-mouth outbreaks.

But he stressed four cases of bluetongue in Suffolk were still not being treated as an outbreak and everything was being done to ensure it did not spread.

The latest case was at Mace Green Farm, in Wenham Road, Copdock, yesterday. The previous three have been at Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, near Needham Market, and on a farm in Lound, near Lowestoft. It is the first time the disease has ever reached UK shores.

Lord Rooker told a press conference at Defra's regional office in Bury St Edmunds: “At the moment it is four cases - it is four we could do without, but it is only four.

“We have been warning that it will come because of what is happening in northern Europe. We have been on constant watch for it, and now it has turned up.

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“It is not an outbreak, and will only be one when Debby Reynolds (chief veterinary officer) decides it is.”

During his visit to East Anglia yesterday, Lord Rooker also visited the National Farmers' Union offices in Newmarket, and part of the Elveden Estate, to listen to the concerns of people in the farming industry.

He said since the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, farmers have been “extra vigilant”, and have been spotting things that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

“Farmers are doing a really good job of checking their animals twice a day, but they feel defenceless,” he said. “The disease can only be transferred by midges and it is incredibly frustrating.”

“To come when we are already dealing with a foot-and-mouth outbreak is even worse, and it is testing veterinary services and the farming industry.”

Meanwhile, a neighbour of Copdock farmer Les Carr, who is the latest affected by bluetongue, said a sick animal was first spotted on Monday.

Keith Potter, who runs a log and timber yard opposite Mace Green Farm, said: “He had it blood-tested and it came back positive.

“Every animal has to be tested. He has hundreds (of cattle) all over the place.”

He added: “I don't think there's any point (in culling all the cattle) because it's not transferable to humans. It's not catching from cow to cow. It's transferable only by midge to midge. How can you guard against that fully?”

Nicola Currie, eastern region director of the Country Land and Business Association, urged farmers to check their stock twice daily.

“We would like to stress that footpaths remain open and the countryside is still open and needs the public's support - and that British food is as safe as ever,” she added.

Brian Finnerty, NFU regional spokesman, said: “It's very important that tests continue. Farmers are very concerned as you can imagine and we still need to establish if this is a live outbreak or one source of infected midges coming over from the continent.”

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