It was business as usual at the prime cattle sale at Thainstone mart near Inverurie yesterday, but news of the confirmed case of BSE at a farm in Aberdeenshire was among the chat of the day.
Some farmers could remember the impact of the major outbreak of the disease in the late 1980s and early 1990s when farms were decimated and millions of cattle culled. Naturally it was hoped this could never happen again.
One farmer said: “We all heard this morning. Anything like that to happen to a farmer is devastating.”
Others spoke of the impact the confirmed case of BSE would have on the farmer and his family, believed to live and work outside Huntly, as winter approaches.
One mart worker said: “You just feel for the farmer. He has probably done everything right, he will have been working hard to get his winter fodder organised. Everyone has been struggling this summer and he will be going into winter in a very difficult situation. He won’t have the option of selling any cattle, for the time being at least. Today people have been saying ‘poor bloke’. It really could happen to any farmer.”
High cost of straw for fodder and limited supplies given the hot summer were already putting farmers under pressure, the employee said.
The worker added: “The farmer has family, and ultimately it is the family who will bear the brunt of it all.
“I just hope the farmer isn’t beating himself up. Nothing has entered the food chain. I just feel sorry for him.”
In Huntly, butcher Charles Raeburn was waiting to hear more information about the case. He said: “We don’t know how it is going to affect us. Last time it was major, but then that was on a huge scale. We don’t know yet if this is isolated or not.”
Garry Stewart, who farms outside Huntly, said: “Hopefully this will just be a single case, but the issue really is what the public are going to think about it all.”
Lysan Eppink, president of British Cattle Veterinary Association, said the Aberdeenshire case of BSE could have occurred naturally.
“I do suspect this case is due to a genetic mutation,” she said. “Obviously there will be panic in the press and scaremongering, but I am not worried that this is going to have an impact on human health or animal health. This is a small farmer, he looks after his animals very well. This is likely to be a fluke of nature.”