FARMERS fear a major outbreak of the deadly TB virus is looming in Cheshire – with one claiming the impact would be worse than foot-and-mouth disease.
Concern is growing after Phil Latham, of Organsdale Farm where the Kelsall Hill Equestrian Centre is based, was forced to have 70 cows slaughtered yesterday at a farm he owns in Nantwich after they were infected by wildlife – with badgers the most likely cause.
The 42-year-old, who will lose £120,000 over the next year due to a loss of production and test costs, fears for his future in dairy farming unless the Government takes action to deal with the issue.
“I’m going to lose a huge chunk of my livelihood through no fault of my own,” he said.
“Unless we get the badgers culled, abhorrent as that may be, this will continue to spread to cattle and other wildlife.”
Dave Heath, who runs Sheaf Farm Shop in Tarvin, says cases of TB have started to flare up in the county over the last five years and fears a major outbreak would be ‘devastating’.
“It’s our main worry in the farming industry at the moment,” he admitted.
“The outbreaks are slowly and surely coming closer to home.
“There’s nothing we can do above our means to eradicate it. It’s a nightmare and a major headache.
“To be totally honest I would class it as being worse than foot-and-mouth because nothing can be done about it,” added Mr Heath, who is undecided about a badger culling policy.
Former Cheshire County Councillor and long-standing farmer David Rowlands, who runs Grange Farm in Mickle Trafford with his son Huw, said: “It’s a matter of great concern, the effect of it is damaging.
“I’m apprehensive it is making its way towards us and the long-term trend shows there is far more TB and it seems to be spreading.”
He believes only infected badgers should be killed – like cattle – rather than culling healthy setts.
The Government says it is ‘committed to a comprehensive and balanced approach to tackling TB’ – including controlled badger culling – and its long-term goal is to completely eradicate the disease.