NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

BSE case farming couple 'looking to the future' after ordeal

Fiona and Thomas Jackson Image copyright Landward/BBC
Image caption Fiona and Thomas Jackson have spoken about what they went through

The farming couple at the centre of a BSE discovery in Aberdeenshire have spoken for the first time of their ordeal.

So-called "mad cow disease" was found at Thomas and Fiona Jackson's Boghead Farm in Lumsden in October.

Mr Jackson told BBC Scotland's Landward he was away at his mother's funeral when the news was released.

Tests later showed four cattle culled at the farm as a precaution did not have the disease.

The case - involving one five-year-old animal - was identified before entering the human food chain.

Investigations are ongoing to try to trace the source of the outbreak.

Boghead is a family-run farm, with a small pedigree herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle.

The couple have farmed there for the last six years since moving from Gloucestershire.

They had a cow which they thought had got hypermagnesemia, a magnesium disorder, and it was treated by a vet.

However, two days later, the cow died.

'Big mistake'

Mr Jackson said: "About a week later we got a phone call from the animal health, saying 'your animal's failed the test for BSE'.

"My initial thought was don't be so bloody stupid, I just thought well they'd made a big mistake here.

"We were the least likely person as far as I was concerned to ever turn up a case."

Image caption The isolated case involved Boghead Farm in Lumsden

Mr Jackson was away at his mother's funeral when he was told that an official press release about the discovery being made on an Aberdeenshire farm would be issued the following day.

'Broken man'

He said: "I've been farming for 45-odd years, trying to make a sort of reasonable job of it, and then all of a sudden you're of worldwide interest for all the wrong reasons."

His wife said: "Well it was hard work for me, literally being in tears, and just wanting Thomas to stop farming, wanting him to stop what he's always done, just because it was so upsetting.

"I'd say Thomas was broken, just so, so, such a shock, so upsetting.

"I wasn't here when the animals were put to sleep, Thomas was.

"I came to see him, and I just looked at him and I thought he's just a broken man, he's worked so hard all his life for these animals, he loves his animals, he talks to his animals, he talks to them more than his wife sometimes, but they're really important to him, that's his livelihood."

'We've got a future'

The case was treated as a one-off, and all restrictions on the farm were lifted.

Mr Jackson said of his farming future: "That's all I've done really, my whole life and all our worldly goods are invested in this farm, it's not something you're just going to chuck in at the last minute."

His wife echoed: "As Thomas has just said, farming is his life, and it's my life as well, so we've got a future here."

There have been 16 cases of BSE in the UK in the past seven years.

In contrast, thousands of cattle were infected at the height of the BSE crisis back in the 1980s and 1990s.

More than four million animals were slaughtered in an attempt to halt the disease.

The full interview can be seen on Landward on Friday at 19:30 on BBC One Scotland, at 16:30 on Saturday on BBC Two Scotland, and on the iPlayer.

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