Worst fears confirmed in Somerset: The Slaughter on Suspicion case reported yesterday at North Newton near Bridgwater in Somerset has been confirmed this afternoon. The disease was found in a Blonde DAquitaine suckler cow, which was sloughing its tongue and had lesions on its hooves. The 40 cattle and calves and 37 ewes and 18 lambs on the farm were slaughtered on Thursday evening and their carcases taken away for rendering this morning.
MAFF is in the process of identifying and contacting the contiguous farms, of which there are at least five. Sheep on these holdings will be slaughtered. Whether cattle on adjacent farms are slaughtered depends upon a veterinary judgement of whether they may have been exposed to the infection. There is a right of appeal.
The origin of the outbreak is a complete mystery, as there are no obvious links with any other outbreak and biosecurity precautions on the farm have been good. What the case demonstrates is that the virus is still out there, and could strike almost anywhere at almost any time. Farmers everywhere must, therefore, keep up their guard.
Bearing in mind what has happened in North Yorkshire, the Chief Veterinary Officer is understood to be very concerned and is considering introducing a complete ban on livestock movements throughout the county. We will know more on that tomorrow morning.
It is not yet clear whether a new separate Infected Area will be created, or whether the existing IA will be extended. The decision will be taken overnight and should be on the MAFF website tomorrow.
There was another scare in Somerset today when a bullock in a field next to the Southern Counties abattoir at Langport was reported to be suffering from tongue blisters and drooling. It turned out that the animal had been eating fertiliser!
Blood testing of sheep within the 3km Protection Zone around the Wiveliscombe outbreak has now been completed, and all of the results so far (15 out of 59 premises) have come back negative. Assuming that there are no positives, the Forms D could be lifted in a week to ten days, with the boundary of the Infected Area being adjusted at the same time.
Additional blood tests: Over and above the blood testing necessary for lifting the 3km PZs, MAFF will also have to test a sample of flocks within 10km of each infected holding as a precursor to the lifting of export restrictions. This will only be on farms where there are both cattle and sheep. The reasoning for sampling of holdings where both species is present is as yet unclear. We have no further details in terms of numbers or timetable as yet, and the UK programme will have to be approved by the EU. But it is encouraging that they are at least thinking about it.