A HOTLINE to take calls from North-East farmers on foot-and-mouth disease opened this week.

The inquiry line in the Newcastle Emergency Disease Control Centre will handle calls from farmers who suspect their livestock may have contracted the disease.

Vets will be quickly dispatched to the scene to carry out tests and valuers called in if necessary.

Staff will also be able to advise on issues such as compensation payments and offer general advice.

Previously, calls from North-East farmers were handled by staff at Maff's Northern Regional Centre at Carlisle.

The North-East centre was set up to free vets of paperwork and offer a faster service to farmers. The inquiry line is (0191) 2145011.