As a protection zone is set up in Suffolk following government confirmation bluetongue is circulating in the UK, Dutch veterinary experts explain the dangers of the disease.
For scientists with experience of bluetongue virus, it's always FFF - fever, face and feet. According to Dr Piet Van Rijn of CIDC Lelystad, the Dutch national reference lab for exotic disease, swelling in the limbs exerts such pain in cattle they dance on their feet.
Talking to our Agricultural correspondent, Van Rijn explained,
"We have not yet discovered the cause of what in Holland we call, 'The Dancing Disease' . We know that cattle get swollen feet and that this can cause them to move about a bit, but we are not sure about whether the Cows actually enjoy it or not. Sometimes we feel they use it as an excuse to arse about at night.
There was an occasion when our complete livestock was infected. I remember being woken up at 2 o'clock in the morning by a loud noise coming from the lower field. To my amazement the entire herd were giving it large to 'Come on Eileen'. To a Cow they were up on their haunches, front legs behind their backs, chests out, doing the dance made so popular by Dexy's Midnight Runners in the early 80's. Some of them had even managed to find bandana's.
"God knows where they got the Hi Fi from but they had in on full blast. However as the disease appears to be caused by human error it is difficult to blame the animals. I just think they milk the situation that's all "
With an outbreak of the bluetongue virus already confirmed in Norfolk as well as Suffolk, farmers are now bracing themselves for many sleepless nights.
Talking from his dairy farm in Woodbridge just outside Ipswich, Ged Melling told our reporter,
"If we have learnt anything from the Dutch experience it is that once the Cows know they have a diagnosis of the 'Dancing disease' they may act up a bit. Already I have seen a few of them doing the jitterbug when Glen Miller came on the radio and my wife believes she saw a group of them 'moonwalking' past the kitchen window yesterday morning. However a full scale rave has not happened yet. We are anticipating the worst."
Indeed farmers up and down the country are having to keep their music down low in case the Cows hear it.
Mr Pritchard from Leeds claims that he saw three Heifers hand jiving in a field as he drove past in his car,
"Admittedly the traffic was bad that day. It had virtually come to a stand still. I remember I had Elvis on and the windows were down. However I certainly didn't expect to see what I saw. They were really getting into it. I almost felt cruel driving on to be honest."
The government have at last woken up to the seriousness of the situation. Agricultural Secretary Bill Cummins issued this statement yesterday,
"Obviously we don't know how long this outbreak will last or how extensive it may become. All we can advise is that the public should be aware of the dangers of potentially tens of thousands of Cows jiving across the countryside. This is not their normal behaviour. Their bodies are not designed to dance and accidents will inevitably occur.
"All we can ask is that people remain vigilant and under no circumstances encourage the behaviour by playing loud music. There has already been a serious incident when a woman from the Wolverhampton broke her leg attempting to teach a jersey Cow to Foxtrot. Is it not obvious that Cows will never understand the concept of quick, quick slow. Even my wife has problems with that one, for fuck's sake!"