Farmers warn of milk shortage due to disease

Farmers warn of milk shortage due to disease

August 22, 2001 Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Farmers have warned Britain may face milk shortages after thousands of dairy cows were culled to combat foot-and-mouth, but industry sources said the producers were scare-mongering.

The National Farmers' Union in Scotland said on Wednesday that output had been steady so far because farmers had been milking older animals, but those would be slaughtered soon as part of Britain's measures against mad cow disease.

"It is estimated that over 100,000 dairy cows in Britain have been slaughtered as a result of the foot-and-mouth outbreak. This is a significant reduction in the national dairy herd and our milk production potential," Robin Christie, NFU Scotland milk committee chairman, said in a statement.

"Dairy farmer representatives from across Scotland at the milk committee meeting confirmed fears that the milk shortages will start to appear in the autumn."

Farmers have repeatedly called for a higher price for their milk and the sources said this was the first shot in their coming battle to boost the market ahead of a milk selling round.

The Dairy Council said there would be no shortage of milk, cheese or cream.

"We can assure the public that there will be no risk of a milk shortage because we know we can produce enough milk to meet the needs of the consumer," a spokeswoman said.

But farmers said the renewed slaughter of cows over 30 months old, believed to be more at risk of becoming infected with mad cow disease or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), would be killed soon, would reduce milk supply.

A scheme to kill older cattle was suspended at the height of Britain's foot-and-mouth epidemic to cut down animal movements and stunt the spread of the disease.

Britain has recorded almost 2,000 cases of foot-and-mouth and has slaughtered more than 3.5 million animals since the disease was uncovered in late February.

Thousands more animals were due to be slaughtered this week, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.

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