IN just over three days, one of Thirsk's most established farmers has gone from having 350 cattle and 9,000 pigs to looking after just one Labrador dog.

Despite taking all measures possible, the spread of foot-and-mouth has cost him his stock.

Mr Robin Bosomworth, of Marderby Hall, Felixkirk, was this week trying to cope with the loss of his livestock.

The farm has been producing milk every day since 1938 and has "delivered" for 23,000 days non-stop.

"Last Friday was the first day in my life that we didn't produce any milk for sale," he said.

He and his wife, Doreen, usually awake to the sound of cows needing feeding. "Before the cull of my livestock, I woke up with things to do, the sound of a farm. Now I wake to silence except for the sound of wildlife," he said.

His time since last Friday, when it was decided that his stock should be culled even though no trace of foot-and-mouth had been found on his farm, has been spent answering calls from friends wanting to sympathise, and from government officials telling him what he had to do now that his farm had been blighted with the disease.

His wife, instead of spending her time in the office sorting out cattle passports or seeing to cattle since their son, Trevor, stopped calling as a safety measure, now spends her time baking bread as therapy, or gardening.

"I expect to have plenty of desk work to do once we are allowed to start cleansing or moving machinery," she said.

To try to stop the disease reaching his livestock, Mr Bosomworth refused to let Defra vets oversee his livestock. Instead, he brought in Mr Jimmy Wight, a retired vet and son of the famous Mr Alf Wight of "James Herriot" fame.

"He managed to contain the disease here and, although two animals from one of the family farms were found to have the disease and one on another, the 'home' farm, started by my father Bertram in 1937, has had no stock struck with the disease," said Mr Bosomworth.

The 185 dairy cows and 9,000 pigs at Abbots Close Farm have been slaughtered as a safety measure.

"We are still going to have great problems as we start to harvest our arable crop," said Mr Bosomworth. "As a family we have three main blocks of land for the different farms and we will have to get licences to move machinery and grain wagons from one farm to another.

"We are lucky we have arable produce to work with now that livestock has gone. Other farmers are not so fortunate."

The fact that the combined farms of the Bosomworth family have all gone in the latest outbreak of foot and mouth will have consequences for many other people.

"We employed several people to handle our cattle and milk production. Ten per cent of the livestock feed comes from one company, then there are the drivers and other people associated with production of milk.

"All will be affected."

Mr Bosomworth and his wife are angry the cleansing procedure has been stopped by the government, because it is costing too much.

"It is totally irresponsible of the government to halt the cleansing rogramme," said Mr Bosomworth. "We have to wait until we are given permission to start the cleansing process which could take up to 12 weeks for one farm and we have several in the family."

Mrs Bosomworth said: "It seems ludicrous that we have to wait. If there is any chance the virus can spread why are we hesitating? We have tried so hard not to get the virus. We haven't visited family or friends or had people here. We have missed grandchildren's birthday parties and the like.

"Our son Trevor stopped coming here to see to the cattle and I have looked after them instead - all to no avail."

The Bosomworths' farm is where the young vet Alf Wight met his first farmer when he moved to the area.

Since Friday, a further 170 dairy cows and 200 young stock on two other family farms have been slaughtered over two days at Sandhutton and Sowerby.

"We are fortunate in that we have grain and other produce to farm. Other farmers who only rear livestock have lost everything," said Mr Bosomworth.