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Herald Express


11:00 - 04 January 2006

Time is running out for a South Devon bull being threatened with slaughter after showing signs of exposure to bovine tuberculosis.

Meanwhile, the owner of five-month-old Mousles Fern was yesterday handling the huge media interest in her bull calf's fate. Farmer Sheilagh Kremers spent the day fielding interviews from local, regional, national and specialist agricultural press to draw attention to his plight.

She has vowed to go to jail rather than let Government inspectors onto New Park Farm, Ogwell, to slaughter her favourite bull calf.

Department of Food and Rural Affairs inspectors tested her herd of 12 rare-breed Dexters for bovine TB just before Christmas.

But the only one to show signs of exposure to the disease was Mousles Fern.

Tragically for Sheilagh, 63, and her husband Mark Isted, 43, the only way Defra vets can be sure is to kill the calf and carry out a post mortem examination.

Yesterday, a Defra vet served a slaughter notice on Sheilagh after she refused to let a valuer on her land.

Sheilagh said: "I have been served with a slaughter notice, but I have not signed it.

"They still have the power to come on to the farm and take away Mousles Fern, who has now been isolated from the rest of the herd."

Sheilagh said it was ''totally insane'' that the vets wanted to kill her prize calf just to check whether it really had TB.

She said: "I would be happy to go to jail in protest at this lunacy.

"I am not sure what the next stage is but I will stop them coming in whatever it takes, with blockades if necessary.

"Being diagnosed as a TB reactor still only means the calf has a 20 per cent chance of having TB. I'm not going to let them kill him with that small percentage risk.

"To prove whether or not he has the disease, they say they must shoot him and then do a post-mortem examination."

A Defra spokesman yesterday confirmed that Sheilagh was breaking the law by not allowing the bull to be slaughtered.

He said: "If an animal is tested and termed a TB reactor, as this was, the animal has been exposed to the TB virus.

"Under British and European law, that cattle has to be slaughtered so as not to compromise the welfare of other cattle, other animals and humans."

Defra wants to value the bull, which is worth about 500, to compensate Sheilagh for his loss.

The valuer did not turn up for his 11am appointment yesterday after Sheilagh warned him to stay away.

But a Defra vet, Linda Farrant, arrived later and tried to convince Sheilagh to allow the calf to be valued.

Sheilagh said: "She tried to talk me round but I said I'm not going to help if you are not prepared to deal with the cause of the bacteria.

"Fern is my future generation. I want to use him to breed my cattle and he might even be a show bull like his father.

"This has all been a total shock. When I found out, I thought my world had come to an end.

"I really don't know what's going to happen next. But I'm not going to let them take him without my permission."

Sheilagh and Mark have spent the past few years breeding pedigree brindle Dexter cattle to show at major farming shows.

Sheilagh bought the 27-acre farm after moving to South Devon from Hampshire 18 months ago.

Fern's father was a champion bull called Mighty Mouse.