Farm Ireland

Thursday 25 April 2019

Farming couple questioned their future after discovery of cow with BSE

The case of the animal disease was identified in Aberdeenshire during routine testing in October.

Fiona and Thomas Jackson (BBC Scotland/PA
Fiona and Thomas Jackson (BBC Scotland/PA

By Lucinda Cameron, Press Association Scotland

A couple have told how they considered giving up farming after one of their cows was found to have BSE.

The case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, more commonly known as mad cow disease, was identified as part of routine testing of a dead cow at their farm in Huntly, Aberdeenshire,

Scotland’s chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas has said she believes the disease was not transmitted and occurred spontaneously in the affected animal.

Farmer Thomas Jackson told BBC Scotland’s countryside magazine series Landward they were shocked by the discovery as they operate a grass-fed closed herd with no new incomers.

It was hard work for me, literally being in tears, and just wanting Thomas to stop farming, wanting him to stop what he's always done, just because it was so upsetting Fiona Jackson

Mr Jackson, who was was in England to attend his mother’s funeral when the public announcement about the case was made, said: “My initial thought was don’t be so stupid, because the cow had never had any concentrates and that’s where I thought it came from, so I just thought ‘well they have made a big mistake here’.

“We were the least likely people as far as I was concerned to ever turn up a case.”

A movement ban was immediately put in place at the farm as investigators worked to determine the source.

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Tests are being carried out on the carcasses of four cows culled as a precaution while investigations continue.

The BBC reported all restrictions on the farm have now been lifted.

Mr Jackson’s wife Fiona told Landward presenter Euan McIlwraith the crisis pushed them to considering giving up farming.

She said: “It was hard work for me, literally being in tears, and just wanting Thomas to stop farming, wanting him to stop what he’s always done, just because it was so upsetting.”

Mrs Jackson added: “I wasn’t here when the animals were put to sleep. Thomas was. I came to see him and just thought ‘he’s just a broken man’.

“He’s worked so hard all his life for these animals, he loves these animals, they are really important to him.”

The couple moved up from Gloucestershire six years ago to take on the farm, at which they have a small pedigree herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle.

Although the experience led them to question their future in farming, they have since resolved to keep going.

Mr Jackson said: “Our whole life and all our worldly goods are invested in this farm, it not just something you are going to chuck.”

His wife added: “As Thomas has said, farming is his life, and it’s my life as well, so we’ve got a future here.”

Landward will broadcast on BBC One Scotland on Friday at 7.30pm and the following day on BBC Two Scotland at 4.30pm.

Millions of cattle were culled in the UK in the 1990s during a BSE epidemic.

Strict controls were introduced to protect consumers after it was linked to a fatal condition called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in humans.

Before the discovery of the latest case, Scotland had been BSE free since 2009, earning it “negligible risk” status along with Northern Ireland.

Press Association