Anyone heard of Agricultural Colleges? There are quite a few of them in the UK, and their carriculum is a damn sight more comprehensive than, "Science, Chemistry Biology..."
I liked the tongue in cheek suggestion for an answer to the problem proposed by "The one and only Dai" - I say tongue in cheek because this is exactly what the Russian and Chinese communist regimes did and thousands starved. Before the 1917 revolution in Russia, Russia was self sufficient with respect to food production. Post revolution and after the Kulak revolt there was not one year when Russia did not have to import grain to feed it's population.
Gareth as to the farmer's "3 Card tricks". I will give you a hypothetical problem and you tell me what you would do as a sheep farmer to solve the problem. You have a sheep farm that you have built up over a number of years. Your flock is not infected but lies within a controlled area. As the market for lamb and mutton is depressed you can roughly expect at best £15 per animal, only problem is you cannot get them to market because of movement restrictions. These same restrictions would also apply even if your farm was situated in an area where there were no diagnosed cases of foot and mouth. You are facing financial ruin, you have produced but you cannot sell, and the government who imposed the restrictions is not going to compensate you to keep animals that are depreciating in value while your costs in maintaining that flock remain the same, or are increasing. You however are in a restricted area and a case of foot and mouth is diagnosed on a neighbouring farm. You know that if your heard gets infected and has to be destroyed you will receive compensation from the EU to the tune of £45 per animal. You tell me, Gareth, as that farmer what would you do?
Since the end of the Second World War British farming has been efficient. Unfortunately it became recognised as a business that institutional investors wanted to get into. Large farming conglomerates were created and best return for the investor became the governing creed. More and more of Britains agriculture and husbandry became managed by accountants, who only ever read a balance sheet and have no feeling, or long term interest in whatever industry they run. That was the situation that allowed the introduction of the practices mentioned by Bron above.
The governments handling of the crisis was ineffectual and haphazard. At times I get the distinct impression that the government of this country would like nothing better than for the entire farming sector in the UK to collapse and go out of business.
Another good point mentioned above was brought up by Mike Cahill. The closure of small local slaughter houses was pushed through by government at the insistance of the EU (EEC at that time) The cost for each to meet european standards was prohibitive - so they closed. During the recent foot and mouth outbreak the first infected animals were diagnosed at a slaughter-house in Essex - but they contracted foot and mouth from contaminated feed (pig swill) on a farm in Northumberland.