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Sheep farmer hit hard by disease

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: March 13, 2014

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A SHEEP farmer in North Devon has spoken of the damage caused to his business by the disease, C-Ovis, spreading around parts of the South West.

His land lies close to a well-used public footpath, but it's not clear if that was the cause of the problem.

The farmer has asked not to be named, to avoid laying blame on a neighbour, so he is referred to here as John.

He is supporting the research by Swimbridge animal health advisor, Tracey Peat, to identify how the disease is coming on to farms and how to prevent it spreading.

John told the Journal he farmed several hundred sheep near the coast where tourists and dog walkers like to go.

"This came in with lambs I bought in, not from my own flock," he said.

"We send lambs for slaughter every fortnight in the winter.

"The first time I sent in a batch I sent them in all together.

"And out of 130 we sent, 40 were condemned with C- Ovis.

"So the next time I split them, and it turned out that my own lambs were clear and the other lot I'd bought in had several go down again. I think at least 35% of those I'd bought in were condemned."

He said he'd had to accept the financial hit, earning nothing from the sale and then being sent a bill for the disposal of the carcasses.

He said: "That finished me buying in lambs. I've stopped it. I was just glad to see the last of them go.

"I could have been cheeky and dropped the bomb on somebody else, but I just took it on the chin."

On top of the cost of disposal he's had to add in what he's spent on feed, straw and labour.

John told the farmer from whom he'd bought the infected lambs what had happened: "I'd taken sheep from him before.

"His land is in a very public place, and I imagine a lot of people go by there. And there was someone nearby who kept a lot of dogs."

He said it was not clear how the bought sheep had caught the disease.

He was relieved to see the back of the disease in this incident.

"It's a combination of things in sheep management but when you get it, you get it big time," he said.

He praised Tracey Peat's bid to find out more across the South West about how and where C- Ovis had struck.

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