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The NFU yesterday continued a series of urgent talks with Government to discuss the control of foot and mouth and stress the welfare problems caused by animals being trapped on farms due to movement restrictions.

More and more reports are coming in from farmers worried about their livestock with pregnant ewes and cows lacking access to shelter and birthing facilities and pig housing problems at the top of the list of concerns.

NFU President Ben Gill met last night with Agriculture ministers Nick Brown, Joyce Quin and Baroness Hayman following a meeting between NFU Deputy President Tim Bennett and MAFF vets earlier in the day.

In both meetings, the need to urgently establish a system to allow licensed limited movements of animals on welfare grounds was pressed.

Mr Gill said: "We discussed in detail the acute problems of farmers who can't move their animals to where they need to be.

"There are a whole host of complications in terms of shelter, feeding,
calving and lambing with major problems also for pig farmers.

"Everyone agreed there is a need for a detailed scheme to be put in place urgently but that it must be within the constraints of controlling this disease."

Discussions in the two meetings focussed particularly on two issues - where a public highway splits a farm preventing animal movements from field to field or field to shelter, and where animals, particularly pregnant ewes, are in fields a long distance from their original holding.

On the first issue, it is hoped that a licensing procedure can be announced imminently that would allow short-distance movements within farming enterprises. On the second, the NFU is continuing discussions with MAFF which is investigating how a scheme can be devised to permit the return of animals to their original holding.

Mr Gill added: "The veterinary advice is that the precise nature of such schemes will depend on how the disease develops over the next few days. We need to be ready with a scheme that we can trigger as soon as safely possible.

"The large number of cases of foot and mouth have come to light in the last 24 hours demonstrates that we cannot let our guard down. I must re-iterate that our top priority - above everything else - is disease control and

"Farmers everywhere must continue to be vigilant and report even their slightest suspicions to MAFF."

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