Mr Robert Thompson, who farms six units around County Durham, has become one of the latest victims of the outbreak at his holding at Edgeknowle, Hamsterley.

Mr Thompson, who was the host of North Sheep '96, called in the ministry last Friday after discovering about 30 very lame in-lamb ewes from a field of 100 next to the River Wear. Others on the farm were not affected, but some 250 had to be slaughtered.

Mr Thompson said the animals were shearlings or two-shear ewes, all carrying twins. He could not understand how they had become infected, unless the disease had been carried on the wind, as the ewes had been on the farm for over a year. He paid tribute to the ministry vets, who he said had been "pleasant, helpful, understanding and considerate."

Mr Thompson, who had a total of 450 cattle and 2,500 sheep before the cull, is still living in fear that the disease might find its way to his other farms. So far, thankfully, cattle that have recently calved are not affected. He is also experiencing a welfare problem as the farmhand who looked after the culled sheep can not travel to other farms to look after any animals.

Although he faces financial implications from the outbreak, Mr Thompson said what concerned him most was not the compensation issue but the fact that the disease affected the whole farming way of life.