Our DEFRA-approved cattle ultrasound training course focuses heavily on bioscurity. Many of our trainees are farmers or farm workers, and know full well the importance of this. Many may even run closed farms. But some individuals wishing to learn bovine pregnancy scanning may be animal lovers who are looking to expand their scanning services to include farm animals. Such individuals may not come from a farming background or even a rural community, and with the BSE and 'Foot and Mouth' crises beginning to fade from recent memory, it can be easy to forget the enormous suffering and destruction to life and livelihoods that these epidemics cause - and the reasons behind the precautions that we teach.

David Harwood's 'Rural Tranquillity to National Crisis' (link below) is essential reading for anybody wanting to understand what it was like working on the front lines during these outbreaks. One story that really demonstrates how quickly the situation escalated was when, in the year 2001, David represented the British Cattle Vet Association (BCVA) at a meeting convened to discuss the recent Foot and Mouth outbreak. The meeting included police, farming unions, veterinary associations, local authorities and welfare charities. He describes how, during the meeting, pieces of paper were passed to the Chief Veterinary Officer, each one reporting a new outbreak even whilst the meeting was taking place.

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One can only imagine the atmosphere in that room at that time - the sense of foreboding - as it became increasingly apparent that this epidemic was rapidly spiralling out of control.

Ultrasound equipment, clothing and shoes, tyres and wheel arches can all potentially transmit a disease from one farm to the next. Given that many diseases have an incubation period (sometimes up to several years), the lack of any obvious illness on the farm does not mean that precautions do not need to be taken. Aside from one's moral obligations, DEFRA's ability to trace the vector involved in disease transmission is so accurate that it would not take them long to identify you as the common factor linking two or more infected farms, with serious legal ramifications for you and your business.