Then in the early nineties disaster struck, B.S.E. arrived or to give it its common name ‘Mad Cow Disease’. Although we were fortunate that we only had two confirmed cases, a further piece of legislation came out regarding cohorts. These were animals with direct links to cases, sisters, daughters, mothers etc. this was to take away a further eight cows. Compensation was paid but this did not cover the disruption and heartache it caused.
Up until 1995 we were still buying in milking cows from other herds. These days apart from the odd bull we are a closed herd, meaning with the young stock we breed we are able to restock our milking herd. Occasionally we also have stock for sale.
The next big hurdle was foot and mouth in 2000. This caused much disruption and expense. Fortunately the disease did not get as far as Kings Langley. We had in place bio security measures. Disinfected straw mats were placed at the entrances and footpaths containing DEFRA approved disinfectant so visitors could scrub their boots. Milk was still able to be collected, however the milk tanker driver travelled with his own pressure washer. He had to disinfect his lorry and himself both on and off the farm. Any deliveries were left at the roadside to keep unnecessary traffic from entering. Anyone entering the farm had to be disinfected and no animal was allowed off the premises. Each morning the fax machine would tell us how many more cows had been slaughtered elsewhere and how the disease was spreading. As you can imagine these were stressful days.
The residents of the village were very respectful of our need to keep the farm closed to walkers. This was not the case regarding walking groups arriving at Kings Langley Station for a walk in the countryside. There were some heated discussions over the straw mat between these groups and us. It was hard to make them realise that if they had been walking in Cumbria the day before they were more of a bio security threat than anyone else.
We were saved from Foot and Mouth, as it did not reach Hertfordshire. Our biggest hurdle recently seems to be the government and European legislation. The latest of which is the nitrates directive. As it stands this could destroy the Gaddesden Herd. Hopefully with the help of everyone we can lobby this will not happen! This impeding legislation was one of the main reasons we opened our farm on farm Sunday. We wanted the local community to see what happens on our farm. The way it is managed and the loss it would be if it was no longer here. We hoped on the day we would attract a couple of hundred people to look round but we were amazed when over 1,500 turned up.
In summing up, the Gaddesden Herd have endured many ups and downs. We are better people for it. The farming year is always the same but everyday is different. When we started farming was physically tiring, now a lot of manual things are done by machine. Today so much of what we have to do is form filling and paper chasing. Not something that comes easy to anyone who works outdoors.