FOLLOWING the decision to cull healthy animals in Cumbria to create a "firebreak" against the disease, farmers in Weardale and Teesdale have watched with mixed feelings to see if similar decisions would be taken there.

Weardale has already had a cluster of cases in a triangle from Wolsingham to Tow Law and Witton-le-Wear. In Teesdale the infection was confined to Hamsterley until this week, when Mr Graeme Raw's farm at Toft Hill Hall fell prey.

Mr Raw, who farms in partnership with his father, had a sheep go lame on Sunday, followed by what appeared to be mouth lesions in other stock. "When the vet came on Tuesday it was obvious it was foot-and-mouth," said Mr Raw. "But I have no problem with the way my case was handled." His 160 cattle and 400 sheep were slaughtered the next day.

Mr Phil Barber, local NFU branch secretary said: "No cull of healthy stock is proposed for this area, but it is always an option the Ministry may need to consider."

Mrs Maureen Suddes, who farms with her two sons at Pit House, Tow Law, saw 550 sheep plus lambs and 120 cattle shot on Monday. "We have farmed here for 44 years," she said. "It is our whole livelihood and way of life gone." She has not yet thought about the future.

The Walker family's three farms at Satley near Lanchester have all fallen victim, with more than 100 cattle and 500 sheep involved. Mr David Walker, whose father and uncle run his two neighbouring farms, described it as a nightmare. "Whatever we get in compensation will be nothing compared to the stress and heartache," he said. The family asked to be left alone, as did the Taylor family, who lost their flock at East Kays Lea, Hamsterley.

Other cases confirmed in county Durham this week include Brawn's Den Farm, Brancepeth; Low House Farm, Middlestone Moor; Old White Lea, Crook; Shotley Field Farm, Shotley Bridge and Denny Well Fields, Witton le Wear.

The outbreak is affecting many other areas of life, including education.

Mr Brian Kinnair, head teacher at Staindrop comprehensive, where many pupils come in from outlying areas, said two or three who lived on farms were getting no education at all.

Dropping off and collecting work was difficult when the whole point of staying at home was to reduce contact, but Mr Kinnair was identifying who was off through illness or other reasons and who was off owing to foot-and-mouth, before deciding what to do.

Forest in Teesdale primary school, whose 15 pupils are mostly from farming stock, was closed at first, as it was near to infection at Wolsingham, but re-opened after three days, with only four pupils present.

The head teacher, Mrs Carol Connelly, who lives at Stanhope, said the postman delivered packages of work to drop off points and collected finished work. Children with access to a computer could e-mail staff and could study on recommended web sites.