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Thursday, 19 April, 2001, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Farmer's diary: A close shave
Farmer Adam Quinney, writing for BBC News Online
In his regular diary for BBC News Onilne, Farmer Adam Quinney tells of a heart-stopping moment when he thought foot and mouth had arrived at his farm.

At long last, the sun has come out and the mud is retreating.

The grass is showing the first signs of recovery, which in turn will mean the sheep have a chance to recover as well.

Hungry sheep fenced in with temporary electric fences can mean only one thing: escape. The ewes at the moment are up near my cousin's, and he has been very patient.

He must have telephoned me at least three times a day last week with the news that yet again the sheep had broken the wire.

They have realised that if they run at the fence in a Napoleonic style column, the sheep at the back push the sheep at the front (who may on approaching the fence have had their courage fail) through the wire, breaking it and allowing the rest to escape.

I have to say that my temper has not been improved by the experience!

Death sparks scare

Last Friday we had a bit of a scare to say the least.

A hogget had died in the night, and on inspection of its upper gum it appeared to have a small blister. I have to say my blood ran cold at this point.

But when the vet from MAFF looked at the sheep's mouth he gave us the all clear. The sense of relief is truly wonderful.

MAFF vets are planning to come to the farm at least once a week to check the stock, mainly because we are so close to an outbreak.

The sight of men in brightly coloured disposable suits sent the local jungle drums into action. Within a few hours the whole district was convinced that we had FMD.

Calving begins

The first three calves were born this week.

A new born calf with tits mother
New born: New life on the Quinney farm
Hopefully not too many will be born in the next week or two, giving us a chance to remove a few cows from the barn to allow more space.

Feed levels are so low that I contacted the local lawn contract mower for his grass cuttings.

The cattle are now having fresh grass cuttings included in their diets, so with luck as the sun begins to work its magic on people's lawns we will have more feed for our stock.

The group of ewes that have been stuck in one field are still in a bad way, even with the ground drying up.

Their body condition is now stable, but we have had two cases this week of twin lamb disease.

A new born calf
Out of harm's way
This is when the ewe breaks down her fat reserves because her diet is too poor.

This in turn builds up toxins within the body, and even with intensive therapy it is difficult to save them.

The best cure for this disease is prevention.

Normally the ewes are placed in different groups according to their body condition, and their diets altered accordingly.

But this year, because of movement controls, this could not happen, and we have had to feed the sheep on the average condition of the group instead.

Other problems can arise from over-feeding sheep as well, so the correct balance has to be reached.

On Monday, we repaired a fence against the road. That night a car smashed its way through the fence, killing one of the occupants.

It quickly put into perspective all the problems on the farm. It is very easy to become so involved in the farm that it we can forget about the problems facing other people.

Previous diaries from Adam Quinney:

  • 12 April: Rain, lambs and skylarks

  • 4 April: Tough decisions

  • 29 March: An Anxious wait

  • 22 March: Staring ruin in the face

  • 12 March: A farmer's fears

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