Well, well, well… Where do I start? Be prepared for a rant and a half! We have heard today that the restrictions relating to the TCZ (temporary control zone) in response to Bluetongue in our area are to be lifted in six days’ time.

“Why not now?” I ask. Is six days going to make a vast amount of difference? This is absurd. Our neighbouring farmer two miles down the road is not in the zone, so a midge is airborne and can travel from Holland, but clearly in the UK it won’t travel more than two miles? Well, not according to DEFRA or the Animal and Plant Health Authority (APHA).

We are now in a vector-free period, apparently, where the midges cannot reproduce in temperatures below 14°C. The last time I looked the average temperature was around five degrees and had been for a few weeks, so why has it taken so long for them to react? In fact, while spending a night in the lorry while Zara was training, we reached the dizzy ‘heights’ of minus five degrees. The answer, obviously, is that they don’t care about the suffering of farmers.

I had a long conversation with one of the senior vets regarding moving cull cows to the abattoir. We are only allowed to move cows to an approved abattoir within a 100-mile radius; the abattoir with which we have built up a good working relationship is over 100 miles away, but is in a predominately dairy area and so the graders are used to grading dairy cows. We had to use an approved abattoir that is predominately prime stock, the grading was significantly different and it resulted in yet another cut in our pay check.

The vet also told me that I had to understand that a few farmers in East Kent may have to be sacrificed for the good and great of our country. Seriously? Who does he think he is?

Over the past four months DEFRA has held sway over whether or not we are allowed to sell our stock and to whom we can sell it, by only licensing it to be sold to approved abattoirs. This is unfair trading and I urge the NFU to take legal action.

DEFRA and APHA are totally risk adverse, as no transmission from animal to animal takes place and there is no risk to animal health, so why are we doing this? Why are they enforcing this? The same DEFRA vet told me that it is to protect our live exports. Living so close to the port, I don’t believe I see one lorry of live animals leaving Dover in a month, let alone on a daily basis.

The chaos that DEFRA and APHA have successfully created over the past four months is pushing most farmers in East Kent and Norfolk to the very limit. The protocols, policies and general rubbish being circulated is really something to behold. The movement licences, blood testing, extra feed costs and extra labour involved over this period has cost our farm alone tens of thousands of pounds.

We had to have 50 calves pre-movement blood tested (costing in excess of £1,000) before applying for a movement licence, which involved giving all details of ear tags, blood test results, haulier, insecticide used, movements on and off the farm within the past 80 days and movements onto the new holding within the past 80 days. This is all information that they hold on a continuous basis. Nothing has changed but they will not grant a licence unless it is written in black and white on every single licence you apply for.

Will we receive any compensation? No. We have spent more than £45,000 responding to government demands and achieved absolutely nothing. We, like many other farmers, are incredibly angry at the way in which we have been treated by both agencies. This is an example of officials basing their knowledge on outdated information and not following the science of the virus.

The Dutch authorities are laughing at the way we have handled this situation. They have let the virus take its course and are now coming through it. They have not blood tested or slaughtered throughout this period.

At least with the restrictions lifted we can now attempt to get the farm back on course, and fingers crossed that we don’t have a reoccurrence. I’m not sure we could survive another one.

Until next time stay safe and keep well.

DEFRA was invited to respond to the points made by Anita but failed to reply.