PRIZE sheep destined for the Great Yorkshire Show were among those slaughtered this week after the outbreak of foot-and-mouth at Danby Wiske, near Northallerton.

West Farm was confirmed as being infected on Tuesday.

Slaughterers moved onto the farm, run by Mr Alistair Wilkin and his father John, at 7.30pm on Tuesday this week, and did not finish work until 3am on Wednesday.

About 200 sheep and 168 cattle were killed after the first signs of foot-and-mouth were found in a heifer at the farm.

The carcases were then taken on Wednesday to nearby Hunters Hill Farm to be disposed of on a pyre.

Animals on two more local farms were to be culled, and the Wilkin's sheep at Morton-on-Swale were slaughtered on Wednesday.

Late yesterday another case was confirmed at Danby Wiske, at High Whinholme farm where 1,000 pigs and 670 sheep will now have to be slaughtered

Mr John Wilkin is retired, but keeps sheep as a hobby, while his son Alistair runs the farm.

The fact that his prize mule sheep, which have won at the Great Yorkshire Show in the past, had to be killed along with all the other livestock was hard to come to terms with.

"They looked wonderfully well," he said. "I was telling people I had the best lot I have had for several years and was looking forward to the summer shows.

"I bought one Lavenham cow from Essex in 1971 and it was those from that one's family that the valuers thought were probably the best. It's when you've had them for five or six generations. But now they've all gone."

He criticised the delays in removing carcasses from the village after the first outbreak last week and those culled afterwards at three nearby farms.

Dead animals were left in the village 40 yards from houses for almost a week and, according to Mr Wilkin, when they were finally moved, they were falling to bits because they were so rotten.

Mr Wilkin did not think delays in removing these carcases caused the outbreak on his farm, but felt his livestock should have been culled last week, when animals on three nearby farms were slaughtered.

"I think decisions are being made a long way off by people who don't know anything about the lay-out of the area," he said.

"I think my neighbours will have wondered why on earth we were left when they were culled, and so do I. We looked as though we could hardly escape getting it."

He added: "The farm where the outbreak was had cattle either side of us and tractors were going past our farm on a daily basis and they wouldn't know they had anything the matter with their cattle.

"Those three farms picked for the cull after the first outbreak were picked from the map. It's this lack of local knowledge that has been detrimental to the efforts."

Mr Wilkin also explained how he and his son Alistair had to push for their sheep at Morton-on-Swale to be slaughtered, and organise it themselves.

Locals said the disposal of dead animals after the first outbreak was delayed by fire proofed wood being brought in to make pyres.

This was denied by MAFF. A spokesman said fire-proofed doors were included on two wagon-loads of wood taken to Danby Wiske, but they only made up a very small proportion of the total load.

"They were immediately discarded and the operation went ahead as scheduled. It did not cause any delays," he explained.

He added that delays in removing carcasses were caused by the sheer pressure of work and not enough lorries and people to do it.

l At 10.30 yesterday morning there were 1,027 confirmed cases of FMD including 54 in County Durham, 25 in Northumberland and ten in Yorkshire.

l Foot-and-mouth round-up: pages 13 & 14.

l Letters to the Editor: page 20.