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Email to warmwell from Dr Ruth Watkins Jan 12 2008

Dear Mary

It seems on the proposed cost sharing of the bluetongue policy in 2007/2008 the minimal cost has fallen upon DEFRA (only one animal testing positive to define an infected farm) and the maximal cost has fallen upon the farmers.

This is in the form of restrictions, veterinary treatment of ill animals and NFSCO removal of any dead, and then the whole cost of vaccination and administration of vaccination including vet visit, any tagging etc, as well as the costs of any testing to move animals.

Meanwhile DEFRA sets the draconian rules and restrictions that farmers have to keep.

I am not sure that anyone can consider that a fair sharing of responsibility and costs.

My suggestions for making this more equitable:

Sheep farmers have a very severe problem, as you know, because the value of sheep of any age has plummetted. I don't think people appreciate that we will have to vaccinate lambs as well as adults to control infection next summer, so the relative expense for sheep farmers is much greater than for cattle farmers. Britain has 10 times as many sheep as any other North European country (as declared in the response to the EU fax).

The stakeholder's December 18th meeting write-up ( N.B the pdf file can be seen here) provides some idea about what DEFRA are brewing up for us. May I make a suggestion:

They tell you what to think in the stakeholder meeting and do not provide you with any data or factual information. The details of the costing Sarah Church is doing are not vouchsafed at all, and what are the DEFRA requirements for the compulsory vaccination scheme that could be carried out, in terms of who vaccinates and how the animals are identified that will be so expensive? At Newmarket, Kevin Pearce from the NFU said that only 27p in the pound (where does this come from?) could be expected from the EU in the event of a compulsory vaccination policy, so the crucial information is not revealed upon which they will decide whether each farmer must pay all the costs to buy the vaccine and pay for its administration.

At the Newmarket meeting, a farmer who had had his herd of cattle tested was reported to have said the whole herd had been infected. Via my brother in law I heard that it was 50%. Actually, 50% sounds more like it.
How many other whole herd tests have been done in England? In other words there are plenty of cattle susceptible to infection next year even in herds that have already experienced infection, as Sabine Zentis found in Germany.

My brother in law, whose cow Duchess had bluetongue in November, believes that there is mild clinical evidence of continuing infection even now in some other animals, either ulcers on the udder or lameness. He rang DEFRA but no one will come out to check this out and no other cattle in his herd other than the original barn door case, Duchess, have ever been tested.

I would expect that infectious parous female midges (C dewulfi or obsoletus) generated last November could still be alive, especially associated with the cattle and the airy barn they are in, with an open side (pretty cold in East Anglia).
They may still be biting and of course remain infectious until they die some time this winter.

In other words there still may be local spread in the protection zone.

Just as on the continent DEFRA do no more than diagnose one animal in the herd or flock and there is no follow up.

I would have thought there only being 66 infected premises in 2007 that follow up could be done and useful information gathered.

Mild clinical evidence is never investigated and I am sure not reported. My brother in law said how on earth did a midge fly all the way from Felixstowe to his farm 35 miles away up the Yare valley? (He is not by the river) Well of course it didn't; there is a trail of infected animals on many farms, (they will be cows in the main as midges prefer to bite them), in the intervening land, probably about 99 infected cows in November to his one that became so ill and that DEFRA agreed to visit and test. There will be more infected cows now.

There were new cases in Europe until early January 2007 last year. Any results from screening again, 28 days later, on that farm near Middlesborough or are they waiting for a barn door clinical case before they go out to test?



Ruth Watkins