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Missed the Press

Since National Geographic went to press, the Davies farm (pp. 68-69) was devastated by foot-and-mouth disease.

Bruce Davies
Photograph by Vincent J. Musi

The family farm is Bruce Davies’s home, his livelihood, his passion. On the outskirts of Monmouth, in southeastern Wales, he and his brother work the 200 acres (80 hectares) their mother owns plus additional land nearby that they rent.

When this picture was taken last summer for the June 2001 issue of National Geographic magazine, Bruce had the normal concerns of a cattle-and-sheep farmer—bad weather, vet bills, the falling prices of meat and wool.

Now he faces a much bigger challenge.

In February an epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease struck Britain for the first time since 1967. Attempting to stop the highly contagious virus, the government culled infected herds as well as the apparently healthy animals on neighboring farms. The disease spread anyway, and more than two million animals have been destroyed.

By April it looked like the Davies farm might be spared. “They were killing animals a mile away,” he recalls. “But then it seemed to be dying out.”

At the end of the month, though, his brother found the telltale blisters on one of their cows, so all their animals had to be destroyed—170 head of cattle, 30 calves, 330 sheep, 450 lambs.

“People around here are devastated,” says Bruce. “Some of our friends had already been through this, and when they heard we were hit, they burst into tears.”

The Davies family is in better shape than many because they own their land free and clear. Bruce and his brother will spend the summer as usual, earning extra money by combining and baling for other farms. They also plan to disinfect and make repairs on their own facilities for the day when they can restock their land. They have no idea when that might be—perhaps years from now. “Raising animals is our life,” he says. “It’s in our blood. And sooner or later we’ll go back to it.”

—Ann Williams

Read more about the Davies farm in happier days in photographer Vince Musi’s Field Notes.

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