INITIAL blood testing of stock on the Brecon Beacons suggests there is no evidence that foot and mouth has spread to the mountains.

But this week further blood testing was being carried out with the co-operation of graziers.

The news has come as a great relief to Herefordshire farmers living near the Brecon borders. This week work is underway to gather the 12,000 sheep on the central Beacons into penned areas to be inspected, blood tested, sheared and attended to all at the same time.

And the animals will be kept penned until the results of the blood tests are known - in five to ten days time.


To co-ordinate the major exercise, an operating centre has been set up in Brecon from which survey teams will be working.

Following five confirmed cases at Libanus, there was concern that the disease might have spread to the sheep that roam parts of the Beacons and elsewhere.

But Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Assembly rural affairs minister, said that although more results were due to come in shortly, those obtained suggested there was no evidence that the disease had spread to the mountain.

He added: "I am well aware that farmers are very anxious to know the results of blood testing on the Brecon Beacons. It will be necessary to do more extensive testing and we are discussing with the graziers how best to organise that.


"Our aim, as ever, is to assure ourselves completely that there is no trace of foot-and-mouth disease on the hills, both for the sake of farming and for our tourist industry."

Mr Jones said that the pattern of the disease in the Libanus area totally vindicated the Assembly's contiguous cull policy.

Laboratory results had confirmed that the disease had spread to a number of farms adjacent to the original case.

"We are pursuing a policy which we are confident will be effective as long as farmers and all those connected to the industry maintain strict standards of disinfection which we have consistently said are necessary if we are to eradicate the disease."

Mr Jones said that there were some who were misguidedly advocating a policy of vaccination.

Voluntary vaccination by individual farmers was illegal. The simple fact was that without a system for the individual identification of sheep, a vaccination programme could not be implemented effectively.

In addition, sufficient vaccine would only be available this autumn to vaccinate cattle rather than sheep.

"Vaccination would only be used as a last resort to protect cattle in a situation where the disease had become endemic in sheep.


"If we reached that point we would face a permanent ban on all exports of lamb and beef."

Mr Jones said Wales would lose more from this than any other part of Britain as forty per cent of the output of the Welsh sheep industry was exported.

"The consequences for farming in Wales would be devastation."