Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The massive accumulation of red dots says it all

Far more revealing than anything seen on the DEFRA website is this bluetongue map - (pdf slow link works eventually on IE- but Firefox still seems unwilling to open this file. Apologies) available on line as a pdf file from the Bvet. admin site in Switzerland, showing the relentless march of bluetongue across Europe. (As the pdf file opens the red dots appear with a rapidity that mirrors the cases themselves.) Switzerland is anxiously awaiting its first case and sees the whole picture - including the new cases in Essex and outside London that reveal the scale of the impending disaster.

Meanwhile there are unconfirmed reports that the UK Bluetongue Protection Zone has been expanded (34 cases now . We note the four red dots in the vicinity of Folkstone and wonder why DEFRA has not thought to mention Kent. But clear, trustworthy communication is another lesson unlearned by DEFRA - which is, of course, why this website came into being in the first place.)

UPDATE Oct 11 We hear from a reliable source that there are no cases in Kent. Some crossed wire it seems - but we hope this is going to be made officially clear.
Alistair Driver writes in the Farmers Guardian

"If confirmed by Defra today, it will be the first clear indication that the disease has spread beyond the local area near Ipswich where it was first discovered. While this is a worrying development, particularly for those now drawn into the zone, it will reportedly bring two more abattoirs into the Protection Zone."

Of course there is a desperate shortage of slaughter houses throughout Britain let alone in the Bluetongue Protection Zone - as per the legacy of a succession of lunatic policies involving spurious health and safety concerns for "EU export standards". In reality the enthusiasm of MAFF vets to increase their power and influence in the 1980s was gleefully supported by the big slaughterhouses who were delighted to see - as a result of the one-size-fits-all "harmonisation" of regulation 91/497/EEC - the medium sized and the small family abattoirs go to the wall.

" If it indeed it is a true case of infection in situ in England, I would fully expect the epidemic to take off next year."
Professor N. James MacLachlan, of the School of Veterinary Medicine University of California Davis, says that the virus proved between 2006 and 2007 that it could overwinter in northern Europe, "so I don’t think the English winter will exterminate it." (See egghead Blog at UC Davis)

MacLachlan says that the btv-8 strain is unusually virulent in cattle and goats and also
"appears to have found a new insect partner to transmit itself....The sobering reality is that this might just be a portent of things to come regarding climate change and the spread of vector borne diseases, especially other Culicoides transmitted viruses like African horse sickness...."

Meanwhile, another sobering reality - the mass killing of light lambs and the price crash for lamb both at the abattoir and the sale of breeding ewes and ewe lambs is a portent of miseries to come.
The media are steering well clear of reporting distressing scenes and so the general public have simply no idea of the desperate seriousness of the present situation for all livestock farmers - not only those completely stalled in the various zones.

Will the lambs simply be left there?

Ruth Watkins sums it up

"...went to our white faced ewe sale yesterday to sell a pen of 10 ewe lambs.
They were as good as I can produce... I got £19 a head for my ewe lambs, I was last and decided I had to sell them otherwise I could not sell my heifers next week in the annual sale of pedigree Welsh Black cattle at Llandovery. 2 buyers bid against each other so that £17 went up to £19.

Would I have had any buyers at all if others had sold their ewe lambs? Most did not sell and were not even bid £20 for a ewe lamb - and most farmers would not contemplate selling below £30 or even £25. They might get £29 now at the abattoir (mine were not quite ready for the abattoir but I do hope mine will be used for breeding. I know they will make lovely ewes, my shearling ewes this year are my best ever and I am keeping them all). The farmers were shell shocked.

If they take them back what will they do with them? Some farmers had gone by the time their ewes came into the pen. Will the lambs simply be left there? The auctioneers were selling them at any price subject to approval by the farmer, and if the farmer couldn't be contacted then they were sold for the auctioneer Christmas fund...."

1 comment:

goatgenetics said...

The dots are amazing. Several in locations not as yet mentioned by DEFRA. Some in Cambridgeshire have pushed the western boundary across to Redditch and Stratford-on-Avon. And four near Dover/Folkstone a fair distance from any others.